By Scott Prater (Fort Carson)May 10, 2018
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Summertime is fast approaching and warmer temperatures typically bring an increase in travel and outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, boating and outdoor cooking, but the season also brings an increase in the risks associated with these outdoor activities.
Colorado's high country offers dozens of locations for Families to camp and hike, but Fort Carson leaders want to remind Soldiers and Families to prepare and plan their summer activities prior to departing on adventures so as to avoid the many pitfalls which can turn fun outdoor experiences into unpleasant and even dangerous events.
"Before heading out for a camping or hiking trip, Families should make a list of all the supplies they'll need and double check that list prior to leaving," said Staff Sgt. Michael Spears, Fort Carson Garrison Safety Office Volunteer Protection Program manager. "Include layers of clothing for changing weather conditions in the high country, as well as sun screen, bug repellent and plenty of water."
Parents should also educate their children about how to recognize and avoid poison ivy and other plants such as cactus, which can cause serious skin irritations, Spears explained.
"Families should also have a map of the area they are visiting and carry a compass, depending on how deep they are going into the mountains," he said. "It's wise to have some knowledge about wildlife in the area as well. Look into the types of animals that live in the area. Ask local officials if bears and mountain lions have been spotted in the area and follow the rules for camping at the site you're visiting."
This year in particular has been dry and windswept, so burn bans have been in effect for many areas of the state thus far and are likely to continue through the summer months. Campers should always know if campfires are allowed in the area they decide to set up a campfire and that it has been fully extinguished upon departure.
Hikers should also be aware of the area they plan to visit and obtain weather reports for the times they are on the trail.
"We recommend that hikers do so in teams," Spears said. "And, hikers should inform someone where they are going and when they plan to be back. They shouldn't rely on a cell phone for communication because cell service is often interrupted in mountainous terrain. Even experienced hikers can get into a dangerous circumstance when unexpected storms occur."
Colorado is one of the top five states for lightning fatalities. Don't wait for an alert, anticipate weather changes and be prepared for drastic temperature changes at altitude.
Late May through mid-August is a time for heavy Family travel as well. Nationwide traffic safety statistics show that more highway fatalities occur in July than in any other month of the year.
"Summer is a big time for family vacations," Spears said. "So, we recommend that people plan accordingly, don't be in a rush. Many accidents occur because people are in a rush. Or, they're texting or talking on their (phones)."
Summer wouldn't be complete for most Families without at least a few trips to the pool, lake or river.
Swimming and boating are two of the most popular summertime activities for military Families. Though cool and invigorating on a hot summer day, water hides a dangerous side.
"The best means for avoiding a boating fatality is to wear a personal floatation device," Spears said. "Boat owners should ensure they have enough life-vests for everyone on board, and Families with children should never visit swimming areas where a lifeguard is not present. They should also make sure to supervise their children in any body of water."
Pleasant evening temperatures often prompt Families to venture outdoors at mealtime and many office or squad parties are hosted around barbecue grills.
"Those of us who have been at Fort Carson for a time are keenly familiar with the winds that tend to pop up here from time to time," Spears said. "Even so, most folks don't think about stabilizing their barbecue grills in preparation. Charcoal grills can topple over easily and if they are full of hot coals, present a fire danger to a surrounding area."
Spears advises Families to set up a safe zone around their grill, cook more than 10 feet away from home overhangs and check gas grills for leaks prior to firing them up for the first time.