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News > Commentary - 40 Festive Days and Nights: Safety First!
40 Festive Days and Nights: Safety First!

Posted 12/2/2010   Updated 12/2/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Michael Hornitschek
375th Air Mobility Wing commander

12/2/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Similar to the 101 Critical Days of Summer safety awareness campaign, there's a holiday campaign as well, known here at Scott as the 40 Festive Days and Nights. The period spans from Thanksgiving to New Years, and while safety should be a year-round focus for all of us, it's important to make special note during this season to keep safety at the forefront of all our activities. I'm pleased to report that we got off to a successful "40 Festive Days and Nights" start this past weekend with no reportable safety incidents--thanks to you all for heeding the message and being safe.

As we all know, hanging outdoor Christmas lights can be difficult and dangerous. We should check ladders for safety and stability, use a tool belt or apron with pockets to store supplies and work at arm's length. It's tempting to try to reach just beyond our limit, instead of climbing down, readjusting, and getting back up the ladder to work the next section.

I'm sure the more than two million Americans who sought emergency treatment throughout the past five years--mostly for fractures--wished they would have been more careful on their ladders. Statistics show that most accidents happen at home, so I urge everyone to have a Wingman with you as you decorate for the holidays.

Ladders aren't the only lurking danger; it can come from Christmas trees, too. For many, the tradition of finding a tree and bringing it home creates fun memories. Getting the tree home, however, can be another story. Be sure the tree is properly secured, with the trunk facing forward, to avoid any roadside disasters. Whether it's a big-screen TV you're trying to fit into your trunk or a new mattress strapped to the top of the car, please ensure it is secure before bounding down the highway at full speed.

If you're the type who likes to "Griswold" your holidays, remember to have the proper outlet-to-plug adapter ratio so as not to overload your circuits and cause fires. Also, ensure your live trees are well watered and that lights on both live and imitation trees are in good working order.

Christmas tree fires are not common, but when they occur, they are likely to be serious. On average, according the National Fire Protection Association, one of every 18 reported fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in death. Fires from line voltage, or decorative lights, are involved in an average of 170 home structure fires each year. Most are a result of electrical problems, but also contributing is placing items that can burn too close to lights. Following manufacturer's instructions and replacing lights are good preventative measures.

This is the season to be merry, so a word of caution as we drink our egg nog and spiced punches. Never ever drink and drive! I have to believe that this message resonates with our Airmen and is a no-brainer, but we know that we must constantly repeat this message as alcohol continues to be a major factor in the death of our Airmen.

There is no safe limit for drinking before driving. You can actually be impaired at an alcohol level well below the legal limit, so it's best to completely separate drinking from driving. Be responsible in your choices, and remember that a party tonight, followed by eight hours of sleep does not make you a safe and sober driver the next day. Drivers have been convicted of drinking and driving offenses occurring the day after a party.
I support the culture of being a responsible host, friend and co-worker--let's help ensure that others get home safely. Have a good plan such as assigning a designated driver, have a good Wingman, stay the night or use the Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving resources--they're there to assist. It's always good to remember the 0-0-1-3 rule: 0 underage drinking, 0 DUIs, 1 drink per hour, 3 drinks per day. Those who understand the risks to themselves, their families and careers, and society at large will see this advice as well worth taking.

And, lastly, another important safety reminder this time of year involves your own personal and financial security. Don't get so wrapped up in the fun that you forget about security such as staying alert for pickpockets and thieves. A crime such as a robbery or even a kidnapping can easily go undetected in a crowd. Train children to ask a store clerk for help if they become separated from you and to never go to the parking lot alone. Other suggestions such as not flashing cash or a collection of credit cards and putting your purchases in your trunk or under cover will also assist in preventing you from being a target.

The holidays should be carefree, and they can be, as long as we put in the work beforehand to remain vigilant with our own--and family's--safety. By following these and other safety suggestions you'll see throughout the upcoming weeks, your holiday season can truly be a festive 40 days and nights!

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