By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsJuly 1, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas - Summer is here. Soldiers and their Families are out in force on area lakes, at the pools and outside enjoying the sunshine and hot weather.
Along with summer and its associated outdoor activities comes a renewed emphasis on safety while enjoying outdoor activities and the need for battle buddies to look out for one another.
Each year from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Fort Hood observes the Summer Sense Campaign to raise awareness of safety issues for Soldiers and their Families.
As part of the 2011 Summer Sense Campaign, the installation sponsored the Save-a-Life Tour, an interactive program that educates about the dangers of drinking and driving. In addition, the post runs promotional materials and signage to raise safety awareness during this timeframe.
Safety briefings conducted by the III Corps and Fort Hood Safety Office and driven down to the unit level offer guidance to help keep Soldiers safe, on duty and in their free time.
During reintegration briefings and safety officer trainings, III Corps and Fort Hood Safety Officer Mike Hampton works to stress the importance of carrying the battle buddy concept from theater to garrison when it comes to safety.
“I try to stress ownership of a lot of what we do,” Hampton said. “I want to get Soldiers thinking consciously about their buddies.”
He takes the concept of watching out for battle buddies and parlays that to safety.
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage to put on that uniform and defend individuals and their freedoms,” Hampton said. “How can you lack the courage to tell your buddy to wear his seat belt?”
That is the same message conveyed by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.
“Soldiers need the ‘personal courage’ to do the right thing and adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct. This can be done by developing an individual; second nature; privately-owned-vehicle ‘pre-combat check’ mentality to address seat belt apathy and complacency,” Lt. Col. Scott Wile, director, Driving Task Force, U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, said, in a release on the center’s website.
From donning personal protective equipment such as helmets when riding motorcycles, lifejackets in the water and seat belts in cars and trucks, to slowing down on the roadways, limiting alcoholic beverage intake and knowing personal limits, Soldiers and Families should look out for each other to prevent summer fun from turning tragic.
PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLES
Privately owned vehicle crashes are consistently the No. 1 issue when it comes to safety for Soldiers and their Families.
Although recent safety campaigns, a ban on cell phone use while driving on the installation and increased requirements in personal protective equipment have raised awareness and helped lower fatality rates, vehicle fatalities remain a concern.
“Even though we are having fewer fatalities than in past years, we are still losing more Soldiers now than we are due to combat,” Ron Deshotel, safety officer, III Corps and Fort Hood Safety Office, said.
Speed, reckless driving, alcohol and distracted drivers are among the most common causes of POV accidents involving Soldiers, according to the III Corps and Fort Hood Safety Office.
Many vehicle fatalities can be prevented by Soldiers looking out for each other and insisting on sober, speed-conscious driving.
Dangers can also lurk on the water. As Soldiers and Families seek ways to beat the heat, increased traffic on area lakes and waterways is expected during the summer months.
Deshotel cautions those out on the lakes and waterways should know their limits and take a realistic look at their swimming abilities.
And do not take to the water alone.
“Even the most experienced swimmers can encounter difficulties in the water, so ‘buddy up,’” Richard Scott, a safety specialist at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, said. “Always swim or operate a watercraft with a buddy, every time, whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or sailing in open waters.”
Boating and swimming also should involve the use of personal flotation devices when on lakes or on the ocean.
Outdoor grilling and sitting around fire pits also are popular summer activities, but open flames can be dangerous if not well-monitored or contained, especially during the current drought conditions.
All of Central Texas is currently under a burn ban, but most of the bans do not prohibit the use of barbecue grills. Grills can easily flame up and fires will spread quickly when the current dry conditions are combined with the constant Central Texas breeze.
In addition to minding the flames, Soldiers and Families also need to be mindful of what is fanning those flames.
“The biggest hazard is people not respecting the flammability of starter fluid,” Deshotel said.
Never start a fire with gasoline or kerosene and never throw a starter fluid on an already burning fire. Keep flammables, children and pets away from flames.
SEVERE WEATHER CHANGES
The old adage, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a day,” seems to hold true in Central Texas.
During the hot summer months, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes often pop up with little warning. The key to weather safety is maintaining a level of preparedness and situational awareness.
Recent severe thunderstorms brought intense lightning and high winds that caused some damage and minor injuries at North Fort Hood, according to information for the Fort Hood Safety Office.
To prevent weather-related injuries, Soldiers and Families are advised to monitor radio and television weather reports when severe weather is expected, and be prepared to move to a safe location. Never drive through rushing water covering a bridge or roadway. Seek stable shelter in the event of high winds, lightning and tornadic activity.
Families should have a severe weather plan and that plan should be communicated to all members of the Family.
Central Texas heat can be deadly during the summer. With temperatures already steadily hitting the low 100s, Soldiers and Families need to take precautions when spending time outside this time of the year.
Even Soldiers participating in early morning physical training can be susceptible to heat injury.
“Proper hydration is the issue,” Deshotel said.
Those who are going to be out in the heat should avoid caffeine and alcohol and stick with water, he added. Be aware of the symptoms and stages of heat injuries and how to treat those injuries.