Staying safe this summer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Air Force Space Command normally averages two fatalities every summer (three to six for the year). However, in the summer of 2006, one death was recorded and in 2007, no fatalities occurred over the 101 Critical Days of Summer.

"I expect every commander, enlisted leader and front-line supervisor to be involved in targeting these two areas specifically," said Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of AFSPC. "Personally visit with each of the members under your direct supervision ... and emphasize safety. We must learn from our mistakes, hold each other accountable and work hard to eliminate mishaps. Embrace our wingman culture by looking out for one another, employ operational risk management practices and, above all, be safe."

The two most common fatal incident classifications for AFSPC are drowning and personal motor vehicle accidents, whether the vehicle is a motorcycle or automobile.

"The drownings most often take place at the Northern Tier bases and the killer is hypothermia," said Mark Pannell, AFSPC Safety. The buddy system and use of PFDs will save lives according to Mr. Pannell, along with a constant awareness, and consistent monitoring of your body. Know the symptoms of hypothermia and get out of the water when you notice them.

"Personal Flotation Devices are great; however, most of the time our Airmen swimming in a river don't have one on. Hypothermia sneaks up, and the next time their buddy looks for them, they are gone," Mr. Pannell added.

Automobile and motorcycle accidents are harder to prevent because one must drive with other people on the road and one has no idea the other's capabilities or what condition they are in -- alert or tired, drunk or sober. Reduce your chances of getting into an automobile mishap by following a few simple rules:

First, when on a long road trip, stop often, get out and walk around to get the blood circulating. This is true for either motorcycles or automobiles. When in a car, drive with a buddy and switch off driving often as well.

Second, use the advice provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation: "Use the technique named SEE, an acronym for a safe driving process that everyone needs to practice," said Mr. Pannell. "Search for potential factors or hazards; Evaluate the situation to anticipate problems; Execute superior maneuvering skills - adjust speed, adjust position, and communicate intentions. When a bad situation develops, you can be taking evasive measures as it happens, not reacting to it after the fact."

Mr. Pannell credits last year's 101 CDS success to increased awareness and the use of a driving simulator program that allowed Airmen to actually practice the SEE approach. "When they practice it, the next time they are in the car, they will use it," he added.

The most common factor of at-work injuries over the summer, indeed throughout the year, is inattention. "This applies to fatalities as much as it does all lesser injuries" said Mr. Pannell. You need to stay focused on the task at hand. When your head is in the game, you significantly lessen the chance of having a mishap.

"To help us repeat the success of last summer, supervisors should target their efforts toward vehicle and water sports safety," said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small, AFSPC command chief. "Remember -- responsibility is a two-way street. Each of us is accountable, both for our actions and for setting a good example."

The wingman culture also plays a key role in the results. Being a good wingman includes doing a risk analysis for any given activity. Determine the risks and have material or equipment on hand to mitigate the risks if they occur. This goes for work or leisure time activities.

The success of last year's zero-fatality 101 Critical Days of Summer means that two Airmen are still alive who otherwise might not have been. The objective of this year's campaign is to increase that number to four.