How to safely enjoy winter fun

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alessandra N. Hurley
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Whether traveling cross-country or celebrating the holidays at home with loved ones, there are some key steps Airmen can take to prevent falling victim to two most common safety risks during the holidays: vehicle mishaps and house fires.

To reduce the chances of being stranded on the road, Staff Sgt. Francis Maher, 28th Bomb Wing Ground Safety Division ground safety technician, recommends Airmen ensure their vehicles are ready for the road by checking oil and antifreeze levels, tire pressure, windshield wipers, heater, defroster and brakes.

The Air Force Safety Center lists vehicle mishaps as the main cause of death for an average of nine Airmen a year, since 1990.

"To prevent vehicle mishaps, carefully plan your trip ahead of time by checking weather conditions at both the starting point and destination, and give yourself enough time based on potential traffic delays, regardless of whether you're taking a trip of less than 50 miles or more than several hundred," Sergeant Maher said. "Also, notify your supervisor if you're ever delayed upon your return to avoid over-extending yourself and rushing to get back."

He also encourages Airmen who may be thinking of drinking to plan ahead, and always designate a driver to stay sober and take them safely home.

"Buckle up, use proper restraints for children, give yourself some extra time, watch your speed, and above all, don't drink and drive," he said. "If you or a loved one has had too much to drink, call a cab or stay at a friend or relative's house- it will be one of the best decisions you will ever make. If you need a ride and don't have cab fare, call 385-RIDE and someone will come pick you up and take you safely home with no questions asked."

Dr. Holly Lenz, Health and Wellness Center health education and promotion director, advises a few more driving safety tips.

"Always ensure that everyone in your vehicle fastens their seat belts and always buckle your child appropriately using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt according to his or her height, weight and age," she said. "It's also a good idea to pack an emergency snow kit, which should include a snow scraper and brush, a flashlight with good batteries, blankets, booster cables, a small shovel, cat litter or sand (to place under your tires for grip if you get stuck in ice or snow), safety flares, emergency triangles and a first aid kit. While you may never have to use these items, they may save your life in the event of an emergency."

Aside from risks on the road, there are also steps Airmen can take to prevent fires in their homes.

For those who are staying indoors at home or visiting at family and friends' homes over the holidays, Dr. Lenz recommends practicing fire safety rules.

"With strings of lights overloading outlets and lots of candles to celebrate the season, house fires are more common in the winter months," she said.

"To prevent residential fires over the holidays, be careful to never leave fireplaces, space heaters, stoves or candles unattended, and make sure not to overload electrical outlets with too many plugs," Dr. Lenz said. "And just in case, have an emergency plan and practice it regularly."

Leo Heuwagen, 28th Bomb Wing Ground Safety Division safety and occupational health specialist reminds Airmen of the joy of the season and explains that with a common sense approach to safety, everyone can experience a pleasant, relaxing winter.

"The holidays are the time of year to enjoy time off with family and friends," Mr. Heuwagen said. "I encourage Airmen and their families to practice smart personal risk management by knowing the risks and planning ahead. Common sense goes a long way to a safe and healthy holiday season."