Shipboard networks ask: How hot is it?

Shipboard networks ask: How hot is it?

Handheld computers are reducing the need for sailor 'rovers' to walk around reading hundreds of thermometers in the hottest work areas of Navy cruisers, destroyers and amphibious vessels. The temperature-taking is now done by the automated Heat Stress Management Program, managed by physiologist Jay Heaney of the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego.

'The Navy has a heat-stress prevention program' with rules about hours worked in hot places such as engine and laundry rooms, galleys and the catapult decks of aircraft carriers, Heaney said. Dry- and wet-bulb thermometers and other indicators must be monitored as often as every hour, which means 'someone has to go location to location,' he said. The work on large vessels in the warmest months consumes up to 5,500 personnel hours per year.

The San Diego center has now outfitted 17 vessels with networks of heat-stress monitors that communicate temperature, humidity and heat load to a central command station via RS-45 wireless signals. 'The updates come every minute in real time,' Heaney said. 'They display on a PC and can be printed as a report' if conditions are severe enough to require review by a health officer.

Engineers occasionally recalibrate and maintain each $1,300 monitor via RS-232 serial connection to a handheld Psion 5mx computer from Psion Teklogix Inc. of Missisauga, Ontario. They use the rugged, lightweight unit because it is easier to carry than a notebook PC, plus it has a large screen and a keypad to handle data.

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