Curtis Bahr (Qualis) received the Exceptional Public Service Medal at the Marshall Space Flight Center Director’s All Hands Awards Presentation on June 21st, 2006, in Morris Auditorium. Other recipients of this medal include those who assisted in the hurricane relief support from MSFC.
According to the citation, Curtis responded quickly and intelligently to contain possible danger to MSFC employees and damage to MSFC property by accessing an explosion in Building 4487, Room 267, that occurred on Wednesday, July 6, 2005.
Curtis was in Building 4487 and heard the explosion. He quickly responded by quizzing the cognizant on-site scientist prior to entry and inspection of the affected room to see what had caused the explosive sound and slight haze against the high ceiling. He risked potential personal harm by entering the room (while breath-holding, with knowledge of experiments in this area, just in case there were unknown respiratory hazards). His immediate goal was to determine if additional damage related to (or which could be potentially exacerbated by) the explosion could be mitigated.
He checked the gas pressures and stomped out a small fire where a piece of material was burning atop the hydrogen and oxygen hoses. If the hoses had been pressurized and the fire burned through the hoses, a substantial additional explosion could have ensued. He then turned off the breaker to obviate an electrical short, expedited the exit of the scientist from the room, and secured the room by locking the door. All of these actions were performed in less than one minute. Curtis then requested analysis of the affected material and an inspection of the room. After the analysis revealed a hazardous substance, mercury, had been released in a significant quantity, he again secured the room making the room “off limits” as well as notifying the proper personnel to investigate.
Some of these actions, rapidly taken by Curtis at his own peril, ensured that further potential damage would not occur from the fire, the hydrogen/oxygen system, and the electrical equipment/loads. Other actions, thoughtfully, yet quickly taken enabled the determination that substantial mercury contamination had taken place, ensured that the mercury would not migrate from this room, and that the number of people exposed to dangerous levels of mercury was limited to those persons who had entered this room on the day of the incident.
Curtis is an example to all of us in responding quickly and intelligently to a potentially hazardous situation preventing danger to other employees and damage to MSFC property. His brave selfless act certainly exemplifies the criteria specified for the Exceptional Public Service Medal.
NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal
Exceptional Bravery Medal is awarded to both Government and non-Government individuals for exemplary and courageous handling of an emergency by an individual who, independent of personal danger, has acted to prevent the loss of human life or Government property.