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European Heatwave Forces US Bases in Germany to Rethink Air Conditioning Policy

The US Army in Germany is considering modifying its policies that limit the use of air conditioning due to unusually high temperatures this year.

“Validated historical weather data is being reviewed and analyzed to determine the impact of recent weather trends on existing policies,” said Ray Johnson, Installation Management Command-Europe spokesperson, reported. 

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Central air conditioning isn’t present everywhere on Army installations in order to save on energy costs. However, recent weather data reveals that summers in Germany are hotter than ever. On Wednesday, the highest June temperatures in the country’s history were recorded, with temperatures reaching 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of Germany.

There were 98 days where the temperature was higher than 86 degrees between 2014 and the present day in the German city of Kaiserslautern, where around 50,000 military Defense Department personnel and family members live. In comparison, there were only 50 days above 86 degrees between 1985 and 1990, according to the German Meteorological Service. At the Spangdahlem Air Base, air conditioning isn't permitted in government units because homes “should be built to mirror units found in the off-base community,” a housing brochure obtained by states.

The air conditioning policies at the Ramstein Air Base are under revision, but base officials say changes are unlikely.

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“No one would deny that we have very hot days in Germany,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Parker, commander of the 86th Civil Engineer Group at Ramstein. “However, the number of days and severity, according to cross-service policy, do not warrant the expense of installing or maintaining comfort cooling.” 

In Germany, US Army personnel are prohibited from adding air conditioning units in their home bases without permission from the German Directorate of Public Works (DPW). 

“The DPW can approve exceptions to policy in coordination with the garrison energy manager for communications rooms, health care facilities and secure facilities,” Johnson said, reported.

Portable cooling devices in Army family housing can be approved by garrison commanders for medical conditions under the Exceptional Family Member Program, Johnson added. 

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Due to the extreme heat, Army training operations have also been modified. For example, soldiers are not using tracer rounds on live-fire ranges at a training area in Grafenwoehr to decrease the risk of starting fires.

According to Sgt. Maj. Micheal Sutterfield of US Army Garrison Bavaria, it is very important that soldiers and civilians alike stay hydrated. 

“We’re especially worried about at-risk groups of people, like pregnant women, children and the elderly,” Sutterfield said. “You should check on them and your fellow soldiers often during this [heat wave] to make sure they’re OK.”

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