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Critical Days of Summer 2012: Safety is personal

The 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day of each year. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Manuel Martins)

The 101 Critical Days of Summer safety campaign runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day of each year. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Manuel Martins)

Joint Base Andrews, Md. -- This year the Air Force has designated the time period of May 25 - Sept. 4 as the Air Force Safety Center's Critical Days of Summer safety campaign. The Air Force's vision this year is to ensure all of our Airmen have zero preventable fatal mishaps and an injury-free summer.

The objective of the Air Force Critical Days of Summer Campaign 2012 is to call attention to the tragic loss and/or injury of Airmen during the summertime and to make Airmen realize that safety is personal for them, their families, friends and co-workers.

Why the need for a summer safety campaign? Since 2002, the Air Force has experienced 218 fatalities during the Critical Days of Summer. Of these, 201 have been off-duty fatalities, and 17 on the job.

Wingmen: It's personal - take care of each other

Airmen, service members and civilians alike, become part of a unique culture when they join the Air Force. The foundation of this culture is the Air Force core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. This culture and these core values compel Airmen to take care of Airmen.

The mission is accomplished by a dedicated team of Airmen committed to these core values and to each other. The commitment to take care of each other comes from within.

Each has families, friends and co-workers who are important in their lives. When Airmen commit to take care of each other, it is personal - their Wingmen are the people that mean the most to them.

Sober is Safer: Thinking then drinking

Drinking has become a part of many summer pastimes. While most people are aware of the hazards of drinking and driving, there are many more situations Airmen can engage in during the summer where alcohol can become a danger.

Airmen should consider the consequences before beginning a summer fun activity; every Airman's safety, as well as the safety of others, will depend on clear thinking.

Developing plans before, rather than after, and sticking to them is the best course of action. Whether it's having a designated driver or choosing to stay sober while participating in outdoor activities, have fun knowing safe steps have been taken to prevent injury or death.

Private Motor Vehicle Mishaps (PMV-4): Slow down, pay attention

Private Motor Vehicle mishaps are a serious danger to the safety of our Airmen. In the Air Force, reckless behavior includes excessive speed, alcohol use, no seat belt use and extreme maneuvers. As of Sept. 30, 2011, 86 percent of PMV-4 fatality mishaps were attributable to these factors. These behaviors continue to threaten Airmen.

Airmen should always be aware of their driving, and drive with caution of those who are on the road with them.

Trip Planning

School's out for summer. Travel plans for the season must always include planning and risk management.

Before Airmen hit the road they should consider the long distance driving risks as well as how they pack their car to allow them to drive safely without restrictions.

BBQs

With warmer weather comes family gatherings and cooking outside on charcoal and gas grills.

Barbequing is a relatively harmless event. However, if safety rules and respect for the dangers of fire are not followed, mishaps can and do occur. Burns, scalds, soft tissue injuries, abrasions and cuts are just a few of the accidents that can occur when grilling.

Airmen should always follow the operating instructions of the grills and cooking devices they are using. The 79th Medical Wing has links at www.79mdw.af.mil on how to seek help immediately if needed.

Beat the summer heat

As the weather gets warmer heat-related illnesses and injuries, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, increase. It is a good safety practice to learn the signs of these as well as how to prevent sunburn, sun poisoning and other hazards.

Summer Weather

Summer brings some unique weather hazards in many parts of the world. Lightning, tornadoes, typhoons and hurricanes are the ones that can be extremely dangerous.

There are approximately 16 million storms a year, and in the United States there are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes each year. Documented lightning injuries in the United States average 300 per year. However, undocumented lightning injuries are likely much higher. The average number of fatalities in the United States is 61. However, due to under reporting, it is estimated that, more realistically, about 100 - 120 deaths per year occur because of lightning, according to the National Weather Service.

Airmen should remain alert to the weather and their surroundings when planning activities.

In the sun

"Sunblock protects your skin by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB radiation. All sunblocks have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating," according to the University of California at San Francisco's School of Medicine. "The SPF rating indicates how long a sunscreen remains effective on the skin. A user can determine how long their sunblock will be effective by multiplying the SPF factor by the length of time it takes for him or her to suffer a burn without sunscreen."

The American Association of Dermatology recommends that a broad spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 15 be applied daily to all sun exposed areas and reapplied every two hours. Some recent clinical trials show sunblock with SPF 30 provided significantly better protection than sunblock with SPF15.

Water Safety: have fun, be safe

Of the three class-A mishaps during the Critical Days of Summer 2011, two were due to drowning. Water accidents can happen very quickly. For this reason preparation for all water activities is vital.

According to a recent American Red Cross survey, almost half the adults surveyed had an experience where they nearly drowned, and one in four knew someone who had drowned.

For many, water sports are an important part of summer. Preventing these tragedies can take many forms. Airmen can learn lifesaving techniques, CPR, know the water-sport vehicle and the limitations of the machine that is being used, stay within the boundaries of the skills and knowledge of the activity the Airmen has, ensure safety equipment is operational and never mix alcohol with water activities.

Following these steps can save lives.

Although boating does not account for many mishaps in the Air Force, the potential for injury or death remains a concern. Don't drink alcoholic drinks while boating. Driving a boat while intoxicated will get you the same results as driving an automobile while intoxicated.

Countering Fatigue

Fatigue is often overlooked by many, but it is a normal response to stress, boredom, physical exertion or simply a lack of sleep.

With today's increasingly on-the-go, around-the-clock society, sleep deprivation is more prevalent than ever. Sleep is vital to the ability to perform in any situation.

Sleep is a necessary and vital biological function. It is essential to a person's physical and emotional well being. Studies have shown that without enough sleep, a person's ability to perform even simple tasks declines dramatically, according to Talk About Sleep, Inc.

The average sleep-deprived individual may experience impaired performance, irritability, lack of concentration, and daytime drowsiness. They are less alert, attentive, and unable to concentrate effectively when sleep deprived. Additionally, because sleep is linked to restorative processes in the immune system, sleep deprivation in a normal adult causes a biological response similar to the body fighting off an infection.

The consequences of sleep deprivation can be tragic. Some famous examples of severe sleep deprivation include the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the NASA Challenger shuttle explosion, and the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The most common consequence within the Air Force is falling asleep behind the steering wheel.

Humans are historically poor at estimating their own levels of fatigue. Accidents occurring as a result of fatigue can be easily prevented by recognizing the signs and alerting supervisors. Supervisors should be diligent in evaluating themselves and their crew for signs of fatigue.

Individuals must be proactive in pursuing adequate rest for themselves and avoiding the traps of fatigue.

Airmen should take advantage of the rest cycles provided to them at work and get "quality" rest and sleep at home. Practicing good hygiene and eating habits helps as well. Remain hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after work shifts. Avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda and energy drinks that often have the opposite effects of hydration.

Report any unsafe levels of fatigue, injuries or illnesses to your immediate supervisor.

For more information about the Critical Days of Summer campaign and ways to stay safe, visit http://www.afsec.af.mil/.