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Staying safe this summer

Jun. 7, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Silhouetted Fishing
Fishermen are silhouetted by the afternoon sun as they cast a net for bait fish in Tampa Bay, Florida. The Air Force's Critical Days of Summer program encourages safety in boating and other summer activities. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)
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The Air Force Safety Office has launched its 2014 Critical Days of Summer program, through Labor Day, to remind airmen to apply the same safety concepts they follow on the job to their off-duty activities.

Summer is traditionally the most dangerous time of year for off-duty accidents and deaths, and more than half of the deaths last year involved alcohol, says Natalie Eslinger, Air Force Safety Office public affairs specialist.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Air Force Risk Management Fundamentals. Every airman and Air Force civilian takes this course within the first 60 or 120 days on duty. They learn a five-step process for pre-planning operations: Identify hazards, assess hazards, develop controls, implement controls, and finally supervise and evaluate.

The same steps can help airmen prepare for any risks they might face in their summer activities, says Mark Nunn, who is the risk management program manager in the safety office’s Analysis and Integration Division.

For example, suppose you are going boating and know that beer will be onboard. You first identify and assess the hazards in boating and drinking. If you decide you are going to drink, you develop controls such as deciding to limit yourself to no more than three drinks or designating someone else to drive you home. Then you follow through on your decisions, and later evaluate your success.

2. Real-time risk management. This comes into play once you are at an event and confront unexpected risks — for example, if illegal drugs are being distributed. For these situations, the Air Force recommends the Navy’s “ABCD” model: Assess hazards, balance controls, communicate, decide and debrief.

This quick “memory jogger” helps airmen react in real time, when there are typically fewer things they can control, Nunn says. If you’ve lost your designated driver, what options do you have? Do you see someone else to serve in that role, or can you call a cab, for example?

3. Be a wingman. Just as you do on duty, watch out for the other guy, Nunn says. Provide feedback when you see inappropriate risk-taking.

“We recruit risk takers. ... [Airmen] are going to be risk takers,” Nunn says. As a result, the Air Force, through programs such as the Critical Days of Summer, attempts to prepare airmen to do the things they are going to take risks at by encouraging proper training and equipment.

“We’re not trying to squash your desire to go out and have fun. We just want you to be smart about it,” he says.

4. Aim for zero fatalities. Last summer, the Air Force lost 21 airmen in noncombat ground accidents, including nine in motorcycle crashes, seven in other vehicle accidents, and three in sports and recreational accidents. Eleven of the 21 involved alcohol, Eslinger says.

5. Learn more. The safety office will offer tips throughout the summer on such topics as drinking responsibly, safe participation in sports, Fourth of July safety and travel planning. For updates, go to the Air Force Safety Center website, www.afsec.af.mil, and click on “Critical Days of Summer” or go to afrc.wingmantoolkit.org and click on “Training.”

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