FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 19, 2022) -- Although still early into autumn, a few mornings of frost-covered windshields have been gentle reminders of the season to follow. For anyone who had to rush back inside to find the ice scraper and a pair of gloves, there are a few more things that can be done now to prepare for winter.
Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians can get all this information by registering for a Winter Driving Course and a Snow Blower Operation Course through the Fort Drum Command Safety Office.
John Rebelo, course instructor, said that North Country winter weather can be sporadic and hard to predict. Snow may start falling in the middle of November one year, and then there may be an absence of a “White Christmas” the next.
“These classes are designed so you start thinking about winter, and then pre-plan for the bad weather instead of reacting to it after the fact,” Rebelo said.
For community members who recently arrived at Fort Drum, the classes are loaded with helpful tips on how to stay safe on the road and at home. But even experienced winter drivers can benefit from some timely reminders.
“I grew up here, since the third grade. But I’ll take all the help I can get,” said one community member, who attended the Oct. 11 class.
Rebelo said that class is conducted with the same premise as the Army’s Risk Management Program, which is about looking for hazards that are present or may occur so that steps can be made to prevent mishaps.
“If we can educate new arrivals on the potential hazards they will encounter during the winter months on the road and while using snow removal equipment – and then show them how to protect themselves from those hazards – we may just save someone’s life,” he said.
Rebelo said that Soldiers and families on a fixed income may need to plan early for expenses – like purchasing winter tires. He said that the Auto Skills Center on post may be a good option for some community members to winterize their vehicles – changing the oil, checking the battery, replacing windshield wiper blades, and replacing windshield washer fluid with one that has a de-icer formula.
For more information about the center, call (315) 772-7902 or visit www.drum.armymwr.com/programs/autoskills.
Winterizing a vehicle includes having basic emergency essentials. A simple winter car kit should include snow brush with scraper, flashlight with extra batteries, blanket, a set of warm clothing, small shovel, windshield wiper fluid, bag of kitty litter or sand, and jumper cables.
When stranded on the side of the road, Rebelo said it is also important to make sure the vehicle can be seen. He recommends packing flares or orange emergency triangles in the kit.
Rebelo said that community members who lack winter driving experience should not wait until the first snowfall to winterize their vehicle.
“A majority of the Soldiers currently serving here come from states that see little or no snow, and with temperatures much higher during the winter months,” he said. “Hopefully, these classes will provide enough foresight and knowledge to help reduce accidents and injury on our roads and neighborhoods.”
Rebelo said that he never assumes the person stranded on the side of the road is new to winter driving. It’s just as likely the motorist was overconfident in his or her driving abilities or vehicle capabilities.
“So the best advice is to just use caution and don’t speed,” he said.
The Snow Blower Operation Course follows the Winter Driving Course, and it covers the different types of snowblowers and their features. Rebelo reviews the different components on the machine, how to safely control it and what to do when it becomes clogged. Then the class moves outside where attendees receive hands-on instruction.
“We have them start it and move the blower around to help them overcome any fears they may have about operating a snowblower,” Rebelo said.
The classes are free and open to Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians. A class schedule is available at www.home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/news/news-digest.
To register, call (315) 772-0310 or 772-3022. The Command Safety Office is located in Bldg. 20621, Munns Corner Road, on Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.