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101 Critical Days of Summer: Use good sense - it's your choice

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Critical Days of Summer campaign began in the early 1980s when fatal mishap numbers were growing for both on- and off-duty activities.

As most of you know, the summer months from Memorial Day through Labor Day present higher than normal risks for off-duty mishaps. It's a time when we also experience fatalities at a much higher rate than other times of the year.

This time of year brings us great joy as we plan summer activities, vacations and trips. Unfortunately, there is nothing more devastating or tragic than for a family member, friend or co-worker to fall victim to a usually preventable deadly accident.

During the next few months, our resolve and our mettle will be severely tested, not by a human enemy force, but by the age-old enemies of indifference, carelessness and bad judgment. Even though accidents can -- and will -- happen to all of us if we aren't careful, commanders, supervisors and other Wingmen can mitigate some of them by continuing to stress the big three: speed, alcohol and seat belts.

We must dispel the myth that mishaps only happen to "the other guy." Let's face it; there is nothing wrong with taking that long-awaited summer vacation road trip or visiting your favorite beach or campsite. Just take the time to apply Personal Risk Management to your particular situation and circumstances. What exactly does this mean? Simply put -- think before you act. Transfer those professional risk management principles you practice every day on the job to your personal lives this summer.

Ask yourself what could possibly go wrong and then take preventive actions where necessary. Be prepared when you do decide to take that trip to the lake, beach, great outdoors or some other type of family outing. If you take your personal vehicle, then be sure to take a good first aid kit (including sunscreen, if needed) and a roadside emergency kit that contains flares.

Proper clothing, supplies, food, water and protective equipment will also ensure you have a happy and successful trip. Plan for the unexpected -- and don't forget your fully charged cell phone.

What are some reasons for the increased risk? We spend more time in outdoor activities and less time paying attention to the hazards. We may overextend our physical capabilities and fail to give our bodies time to rest. At times, we are thinking about our weekend or vacation plans while we should be focusing on our work. Fatigue and inattention are factors in many mishaps. Alcohol use is another.

The No. 1 cause of serious injuries and fatalities to Air Force people during the Critical Days is motor vehicle mishaps. Many factors are involved in these mishaps: driving when fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, not using seat belts and failing to recognize and react to road hazards. People head out of town for recreation and vacations without proper planning and preparation. They often travel on unfamiliar roads. They drive too fast, drive without planning stopping points and often don't take time to prepare their vehicles for the trip. Most of the above also applies to motorcyclists.

The second leading cause of summer fatalities is drowning. Boating, swimming, scuba diving and river rafting have cost many lives in the past. About half of all drownings occurred after "unintentional entries" -- when people fall, get pushed or knocked into the water. The majority of water safety tips involve simple common sense:

· Wear Coast Guard approved life preservers on boats and on docks.
· Learn to swim.
· Know your limits and don't swim beyond your capabilities.
· Never swim alone.
· Never dive into shallow water or water of unknown depth.
· Supervise children at all times around water, including backyard wading and swimming pools.

Even though the focus of the "Critical Days of Summer" campaign is summer safety, don't neglect safe practices at work. Manning is usually short this time of year due to leave schedules and a pretty high operations tempo, including deployments. Because of these factors, it may take a little longer to do the job right the first time, but make sure that you do just that. Strict compliance with technical data, checklists, and regulatory requirements is a must.

We at the 72nd Air Base Wing Base Safety office wish everyone a safe, healthy and mishap-free summer and hope that we all meet again after the Labor Day weekend in one piece.

Stay safe and think before you act!