Vance custodians fight the COVID-19 virus with electrostatic guns, lots of innovation

  • Published
  • By Joe B. Wiles
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- An elite team of guardians are stalking an invisible predator at Vance Air Force Base.

They are killing the COVID-19 virus and any of its harmful cousins.

Armed with EMist electrostatic disinfectant guns, specially trained custodians with the base operations support contractor mist high-traffic common areas around Vance.

Their training, the EMist guns and the stockpiling of a variety of cleaning and disinfecting products are a result of a proactive approach by John Woosley, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Federal Communications program manager.

“The EMist guns are similar to what airlines use to disinfect aircraft between flights,” said Woosley.

The custodians are trained in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended procedures for deep-cleaning and virus eradication.

Currently working with a backpack EMist unit and two handheld models, the custodians spend the late night hours covering areas of Vance with a fine mist of water particles and one of three disinfecting solutions.

“We tailor the solutions to the areas that are getting cleaned,” said Willie Vinson, the ASRC Federal Communications deputy program manager.

The guns work by adding an electrical charge to the outer surface of the disinfecting solution particles, causing them to adhere to any surface they touch.

The spray stays where the operators send it, whether on walls, the underside of desktops or the walls of the sauna in the Fitness Center.

Offices and common areas are not the only targets of the anti-virus crusade. “The surreys we use to deliver student pilots to their aircraft are disinfected on a regular basis,” said Woosley. “We use both the guns and spray cans of a hospital strength disinfectant.”

Disinfectant guns and cans of virucide did not come about by accident.

Disinfecting during a pandemic was not part of the original performance of work statement for the support contractor. “We took the initiative when COVID-19 talk first began,” said Vinson. “We did some research looking for a disinfecting tool we could use,” he said.

The EMist was the type of device the Enid Public School uses when responding to a flu outbreak in their facilities. Two companies make the devices. “We ordered from EMist because it was American made in Texas,” said Vinson.

To stay within contract costs to the government, ASRC Federal Communications went to the contracting office with recommendations geared towards increased sanitation, allowing them to reduce non-COVID-19 related cleaning tasks so they could add a variety of disinfecting routines.

“If an area has an occupant that tests positive, the custodians can go in for a deep cleaning, disinfecting with the EMist guns and wipe down light switches and doorknobs with hospital products that kill everything,” said Woosley.

The approved changes give the custodians extra time to do all the high-touch, high-traffic areas, said Woosley.

At the same time the contractor was asking for approval for changes, its buyers put on a full-court press in acquiring cleaning and disinfecting supplies.

“We have some very talented buyers,” said Woosley. “When the Med Group was having a challenge getting touchless thermometers, our folks placed an order on a Thursday and they were delivered the following Monday.”

Because of the EMist devices effectiveness, ASRC Federal Communications ordered another backpack and two more hand-held electrostatic guns.

Vinson said Team Vance is doing a lot to help combat the COVID-19 virus. “We see hand sanitizers and cans of disinfectant spray on most desks,” he said.

When hand sanitizers were in short supply in early March, the company looked for ways to get a supply for its workers. “We started by mixing our own formula of alcohol and aloe-vera gel,” said Woosley. Then they ran out of alcohol.

“We located a distillery that was producing hand-sanitizer quality alcohol and placed an order,” said Vinson. Then they ran out of aloe-vera gel.

“We switched to ultrasound gel, which works fine,” said Vinson.

And the battle against the COVID-19 virus continues. Armed with electrostatic guns, cans of virucide and a dedication to their mission, ASRC Federal Communications custodians have the health and safety of Team Vance well in hand.