Temperature changes, shorter daylight hours, increased travel and emotional overload are hallmarks of the fall, winter and holiday seasons that safety officials say result in preventable mishaps.
“It’s as simple as taking the same safety practices and procedures we use on duty and applying them to our off-duty activities,” said Air Force Chief of Safety Maj. Gen. John T Rauch. Every Airman should maintain a safety culture, he said, from following the fundamentals on duty to using sound risk management and making smart decisions off duty.
“I urge every Airman — uniformed and civilian — to take the time to thoroughly think through your holiday plans and use sound risk management when traveling and participating in the seasonal and holiday activities,” Rauch said.
Occupational safety experts at the Air Force Safety Center track mishaps through the fall-winter-holiday period from the Monday preceding Thanksgiving Day to the day after New Year’s Day. Mishaps for those periods over the past five fiscal years resulted in 24 serious off-duty mishaps; 20 deaths, one permanent total disability and four permanent partial disabilities. Motor vehicle mishaps made up the majority with 15, followed by sports, recreation and individual fitness with five.
“While we know that one fatal mishap is too many, it’s especially disheartening when we see that most of these mishaps were preventable,” said Bill Parsons, Air Force chief of occupational safety. “If every Airman commits to making risk management part of every activity – on duty and off duty — I’m convinced there will be more Airmen who return to duty after the holidays with great memories and stories to share.”
While most serious off-duty mishaps involve motor vehicle operation, safety experts agree that potential dangers in the home and in recreational activities must also be managed effectively to save lives and reduce serious injuries.
All Airmen and their families can use the following safety checklists to keep seasonal and holiday travels, celebrations and activities safe.
For your home:
• Supply of flashlights (and batteries) and blankets
• Salt or sand for treacherous sidewalks and driveways
• Safe, radiant space heater (no open coils)
• Supply of medications and food
• Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
For your car:
• Check fluid levels, service belts and hoses
• Ensure heater and defroster are working
• Check tire pressure and tread
• Check brakes within the last 5,000 miles
• Test turn signals, brake and headlights, and four-way hazard lights
• Change cracked or worn windshield wiper blades
• Stock emergency kit (blankets, flashlights, water, energy bars, warning triangles, first aid kit, etc.)
• Driving and texting make a lethal combination; don’t let your next text be your last
• Alcohol and driving … don’t do it
• Plan your outing … know the area and pack accordingly
• Slow down … enjoy the drive
• Get a good night’s sleep and take frequent rest stops
If stranded on the roadway:
• Stay calm; get your vehicle as far off the road as safely possible; turn on emergency flashers
• Call or text roadside assistance or 911; keep windows and doors locked until help arrives
• Make your vehicle visible; open the hood or tie a brightly colored object to the antenna
• Remain in the vehicle unless help is visible within 100 yards; don’t risk exposure
• Run engine periodically to keep the vehicle warm; ensure car exhaust pipe is clear of snow that could block the discharge; crack a window to avoid carbon monoxide buildup
• Move fingers, toes and change seated position frequently to avoid frostbite