COL Kelly J. Lawler, Franconia Military Community commander
Col. Kelly J. Lawler, commander of the Franconia Military Community, urges Soldiers, Families and civilians to stay safe during the 4th of July and the upcoming weekend.

ANSBACH, Germany (July 3, 2013) -- Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago the Continental Congress, proclaiming that "all men are created equal" and endowed with "certain unalienable Rights," adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Even at overseas duty assignments like here in Germany, Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence annually with fun activities like barbecues and fireworks.

In celebration of our nation's independence, many of you will visit friends, travel, host a barbecue and invite family and friends or engage in your favorite recreational activities. Regardless of your plans, keep safety in mind because accidents don't take a holiday and neither should safety.

Sadly, the Fourth of July is historically a time when safety staffs report a spike in the number of accidents. These accidents are often the results of inattention, carelessness or an over-indulgence in alcohol. The message here is clear: We must exercise risk management in our activities on and off the job. Risk management does not mean you can't have fun; it simply means deciding what risks are worth taking and which ones are not. For example, we know that one beer is equal to .03 and that the legal limit in Germany is .05. So instead of driving a vehicle (i.e., car, motorcycle or bicycle), we walk, take a taxi or ride with a designated driver. The bottom line is we refrain from driving or operating heavy machinery, or engaging in high-risk activities after one drink, as it impairs our judgment and affects our reaction time, which can have deadly consequences.

If you're planning on taking a long trip over the holiday period, please monitor your level of fatigue. Remember, fatigued driving is equivalent to driving under the influence in terms of your reaction time. Be sure to wear protective equipment if you are riding a motorcycle. I encourage anyone traveling a long distance to access the Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) website and conduct a POV Risk Assessment:

If you decide to take advantage of warmer temperatures by engaging in water activities, please swim in approved areas where lifeguards are present. Be sure to obey all rules and posted signs. Pay attention to local weather conditions and stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather. Children and inexperienced swimmers should always use personal flotation devices.

It's important to note that the private use of fireworks on military installations is prohibited. Personal fireworks are also prohibited off post in German communities. The only time they are allowed is on New Year's; outside of that day, German police will confiscate fireworks from anyone carrying or using them. To celebrate the Fourth of July, community members are encouraged to attend a fireworks display at the nearest military community -- for USAG Ansbach community members, USAG Ansbach is hosting its celebration at dusk on July 4 at Katterbach Army Airfield; USAG Bamberg's is at Pendleton Field; and USAG Schweinfurt is hosting theirs at Kessler Field.

For those planning on hosting a barbecue, be sure to keep matches, lighters and starter fluid out of the reach of children and position grills a safe distance away from play areas, foot traffic and other flammable materials. Also, be a responsible host and don't let your guests drive themselves home after having one too many.

Everyone can make a difference this holiday, period. When you practice safety and inform others about safety, you are saving lives. Remember, accidents don't take a holiday. Always maintain an awareness of the potential hazards around you. We have the distinct pleasure of serving a wonderful nation in the greatest Army in the world. I appreciate your efforts in contributing to our mission and I look forward to your safe return.

COL Kelly J. Lawler, Franconia Military Community commander

Page last updated Wed July 3rd, 2013 at 08:56