'Foam test' e-mail overflows with perception problems|
by Tech. Sgt. Steven D. Wilson
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
4/14/2006 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFPN) -- A B-1 hangar is filled with more bubbles than a dinosaur-sized hot tub. There are people standing around with suds up to their eyeballs. People are standing on top of the rafters in the building as foam and bubbles continue to rise.
Did a glacier melt? Did some kind of ultra-secret government underground lab have a freak accident? Most importantly, which maintenance troop’s head rolled for this one?
Actually, it’s none of the above. Those who have seen the e-mail that seems to be burning up the communication lines across the Department of Defense need to brace themselves: That hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., was filled with foam on purpose.
That misleading e-mail with an attached slide presentation showing photos of the test has caused considerable work in correcting wrong information.
A modern high-expansion foam system was placed in the hangar to replace an aging fire suppression system, said Lt. Col. Navnit Singh, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. The contractor responsible for installing the system submitted a plan prior to installation to test the system. The plan was approved, he said.
The test of the new foam system was conducted Aug. 23. Required coverage occurred within one minute of the system being activated. The test was so successful, the foam reached the observation platform where officials were documenting the procedure.
The Air Force required a minimum of one meter of foam to be achieved in four minutes or less. For testing purposes, the foam was allowed to disperse for the full four minutes.
The observers were surprised at how quickly the system generated the fire suppressing foam, Colonel Singh said.
The system worked so well the exterior door of the hangar had to be opened before the test was fully completed. These events account for the photos of the amount of foam inside and outside of the hangar.
So, did someone have a gross miscue? No. On the contrary, a fire suppression system responsible for helping protect vital mission-essential assets and, most importantly, for helping safeguard Airmen’s lives, worked extremely well. The foam system exceeded Air Force standards, Colonel Singh said.
The misrepresentation of this test has raised the level of awareness about the far-reaching effects of e-mail and technology.
Master Sgt. Dana Rogers, 28th Communications Squadron superintendent of network security, said e-mails such as the one depicting the foam test “misrepresent our capabilities” and can even cause damage to computer networks.
“You think it’s so funny, so you send it to 10 people. Then, they send it to 10 more. This takes up an extremely large amount of e-mail space and can lead to the loss of resources,” he said.
Another aspect of e-mails that miscommunicate facts is the amount of time someone may have to take in order to set the record straight. An e-mail that took two seconds to send caused a large number of man-hours to set straight.
“Any time spent responding to an incident like this is a drain on a very precious resource … time,” said Mark Wheeler, 28th CES deputy commander.