By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleMay 31, 2013
Whether it's dehydration, grilling fires or boating accidents, the warm weather of spring and summer presents plenty of dangers for unprepared community members participating in outdoor activities.
Garrison leadership encourages personnel to enjoy the nice weather while taking precautions to remain healthy, according to Fort Belvoir Safety Office officials.
"There are a lot of activities associated with spring and summer," said Chris McCormick, Installation Safety Office acting director. "You must pay close attention to your entire Family and take precautions to ensure everyone's safety."
One of the first precautions community members can take is remaining hydrated. Everyone is encouraged to drink plenty of water before engaging in running, hiking and other outdoor activities. It's also wise to take several breaks during physical activities. Breaks can help reduce the chance of overexertion.
"Dehydration is easy even if it's overcast, especially in this area of high humidity," said Brianna Kipper, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Outdoor Recreation director.
Kipper suggests residents develop emergency plans before engaging in any activity. Before hiking, for example, community members should pack plenty of water and food and tell someone of their plans before leaving. Hikers should also research the planned hiking path and locate potential emergency routes along the trail. They should also have contact information for emergency personnel and Family members.
"During the spring and summer, people can be so focused on having fun they forget about safety," Kipper said. "It's always important to plan and prepare in advance."
Fort Belvoir's Outdoor Recreation Office offers many opportunities for outdoor fun. ODR has equipment rentals for archery, biking, hiking, boating, fishing and other sporting activities.
"There are endless opportunities for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors," said Kipper, who called Tompkins Basin one of the best kept secrets on Fort Belvoir. "Once people realize we're down here, they come back."
The office provides numerous pieces of safety equipment, such as helmets and personal floatation devices, as part of the equipment rental.
Additional safety instruction includes boating safety tips. McCormick strongly encourages community members using the water for swimming and boating activities to not go alone.
"Use the buddy system," McCormick said. "Let someone know where you're going." Consuming alcohol while conducting water activities is strongly discouraged, McCormick said.
Residents taking advantage of the warm weather to grill should follow Fort Belvoir's rules and regulations. Belvoir residents must place grills at least 10 feet away from any structure, trees, bushes, tents, decking, gazebos, cars, dumpsters and any over-hangs from these locations. Residents must also keep grills out of garages and away from children. The 10-foot rule reduces the chance of injuries and property damage created by a flash fire from greasy foods or poorly maintained grills, McCormick said. Residents should never use gasoline as a fuel source for gas grills or charcoal grills and they shouldn't wear loose clothing that could contact the fire.
Call the fire department in event of emergency (703) 781-1800.
"You've got to make sure your grill is working properly," McCormick said. "Make sure you use your grill in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions."
Residents seeking to grill outdoors in a park on post must obtain a permit from the Fort Belvoir Fire Marshal's office, or the fire station if a marshal is not available.
Kipper said residents should take precautions to prevent food-borne illness after cooking food.
Food should be kept at 140 degrees until served. Refrigerate food that won't be consumed within an hour of cooking by placing it in a shallow pan at a temperature lower than 40 degrees. Leaving food out between 140 and 40 degrees increases the chances of harmful bacteria growing on the food. The chances are even higher during the summer season due to warmer weather. Taking these precautions can help prevent food-borne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella, which cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting, among other symptoms.
For more information on grill and grilling safety or regulations on post, call the Fort Belvoir Fire Marshal's Office at (703) 805-2091. For emergencies, call (703) 781-1800.
Fort Belvoir's Outdoor Recreation Office is open from 8 a.m., to 8 p.m., every day, at Tompkins Basin. Prices and duration for rental equipment varies from item-to-item. Call (703) 805-3081 for more information.