Making it personal: Air Force Critical Days of Summer
Senior Airman LaDarius Reed, 187 Fighter Wing, Force Support Squadron, Customer Service Representative and Master Sgt. Tony Mathews, 187 Fighter Wing, Knowledge Operations Manager, staying hydrated during their intramural softball game. Proper hydration is key to preventing accidents in the Alabama summer heat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)
by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz and Airman 1st Class William Blankenship
Air University Public Affairs
6/1/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With hopes of calling attention to the tragic loss or injury of Airmen during the summertime, the Air Force entered its annual critical days of summer on May 25, with the theme, "It's Personal."
The Critical Days of Summer is an annual safety campaign which begins on Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4 on Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex. It is also used to help Airmen realize safety is personal for them, their families, friends and co-workers because a loss or injury affects not only the Airman, but many of their loved ones as well.
According to Lt. Col. Geoffrey Gibbs, 42nd Air Base Wing chief of safety, Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex have been very fortunate in the last two years during the critical days of summer, reporting zero fatalities.
However, this has not been the case throughout the entire Air Force. According to the Air Force Safety Center, the Air Force has experienced 218 fatalities during this time period. Gibbs noted the more important takeaway is the fact that 201 of these fatalities were off-duty.
"The Critical Days of Summer needs to be more than a program," said the father of four. "It needs to become a mentality. It is unfortunate, but many people forget to use operational risk management the moment they leave the base. Airmen and their families need to remain vigilant. I am not saying they can't have fun, but understand the risks involved and assess the situation properly with whatever you do."
One component that makes these days so critical is the fact children will be out of school and in the neighborhoods playing. Mark Garner, 42nd Air Base Wing deputy chief of safety said being vigilant during these days is also reminding your family to do the same.
"While everyone working on Maxwell receives safety briefings from their unit, not all of that information gets passed along to their families," said Garner. "Be aware, school is not in session and there are kids riding bikes and outside playing and drivers need to take that into consideration and be aware of that situation."
Garner also said families must also be aware of local driving laws and potential hazards.
"Our number one fatality producing agent in the Air Force is private motorized vehicles," explained Mark Garner, 42nd Air Base Wing deputy chief of safety. "Alcohol, speed, distractions and fatigue are all things to be aware of when driving or riding in a vehicle."
Garner and Gibbs also said to remember some of Alabama's new local driving laws, including the no texting while driving law recently passed by the Alabama House of Representatives. They also said to remember all of the old ones as well.
"The Wingman concept is about taking care of each other," said Gibbs. "That is what we should be doing on or off duty as Airmen."
He also said besides avoiding being ticketed, following all of the rules and staying safe will hopefully foster a mentality that will make these critical days of summer not so critical in the future.
- When swimming, check the water before diving, know your own limits, go swimming with a friend or family member, only swim in authorized areas and do not swim if inclement weather is pending.
- When boating, know and obey all local boating laws, use life vests, check the weather conditions before going out to the water, bring and use sunscreen and remember to stay hydrated.
- When jogging or running, remember to warm-up, use sidewalks or an approved running track, be visible day and night by wearing reflective clothing and stay hydrated
- When using a motorcycle or bicycle, wear personal protective equipment, be visible day and night by wearing reflective clothing, receive training from an approved motorcycle safety foundation course obey traffic laws, do not drink and drive and do not drive while fatigued or sleepy.
- While camping, only camp in approved areas, exercise caution when starting a fire, extinguish a fire using water and dirt when done, keep an eye out for wildlife and remember to use sunscreen.
- When cooking outdoors, keep children and pets a safe distance from the grill, move grills away from buildings and overhangs, check all seals and gas hoses, monitor your grill, let coals cool before discarding if you are using a charcoal grill and obviously, do not use a grill indoors.
- When driving, remember to always wear a seatbelt, check your tire pressure, ensure your fluids are all topped off, do not use a mobile or any other electronic devices while driving, do not consume alcoholic beverages before operating a motor vehicle and drive defensively.