FORT EUSTIS, Va. – With summer almost here, it will soon be time to uncover boats, dust off motorcycles, take a dip in the pool, go for a hike or just lie in the sun enjoying the outdoors with the smell of barbeque in the air.
Unfortunately these beautiful summer days come with increased hazards and risks. According to the National Safety council, more than 400 fatal vehicle crashes and 43,500 medically-consulted injuries are estimated to take place on Memorial Day weekend alone.
To combat these staggering statistics, the U.S. Army and Air Force designate May 25 through Sept. 4 of every year as the 101 Critical Days of Summer, a campaign dedicated to ensuring Soldiers and Airmen have an injury-free summer.
The safety campaign is intended to increase service members’ knowledge and understanding of dangers involved with recreational activities, as well as common summer endeavors.
“The summer months are when service members tend to travel, vacation or partake in other activities that inherently come with a higher risk for danger,” said Master Sgt. Harold V. Joe, 633rd Air Base Wing Safety superintendent. “While the [Services] have a year-round safety campaign, there is a bigger push during the summer months because of the increase of outdoor activities.”
Arguably one of the most dangerous hazards, impaired driving is common during summer months marked with holidays, vacations and cook-outs. In 2010, one third of vehicle fatalities were attributed to drivers with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher, averaging to a death every 51 minutes.
Although impaired driving is a serious risk, there are other safety concerns associated with driving that are prevalent during the summer months, such as motorcycle, bicycle and pedestrian safety.
While driving mishaps are severe, they are far from the sole focus of the summer safety campaign.
According to the NSC, more than 3,800 people died in water and watercraft-related incidents in 2008, and the trend has continued to been on the rise. To reduce the risk of mishaps while swimming, ensure a life guard is on duty at pools or beaches, have a swimming buddy and wear proper gear when participating in water sports.
Sunshine and warm weather are the most appealing aspects of summer, but it is important to know the risks associated with them and practice safe outdoor routines. Two sunburns before the age of 18 can double the risk of melanoma, according to the NSC.
During the overly hot, humid days, make sure to stay hydrated and limit intense, outdoor exercise. Focus on replacing lost salt and minerals with water and sports drinks and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
It is also important to recognize the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, fatigue, heavy sweating, confusion, extreme thirst, dizziness, cramps and nausea are all symptoms and must be taken seriously.
Joe said no matter the activity, practicing safety and responsibility has a direct effect on mission requirements.
“What we want to communicate most is to just have a plan, even if you’re doing something as simple as barbequing,” he said. “Think before you do anything – and most importantly, look out for each other. [Service members] are the most important part of our mission and without them, nothing can get done.”