Fall Safety Campaign Under Way at McChord AFB
More than 10,000 personnel at McChord Air Force Base, near Tacoma, Wash., provide a fast, flexible, responsive airlift capability to DoD. Motor vehicle accidents are a special concern as the holiday season approaches.
- By Jake Chappelle
- Oct 01, 2009
Even though the Critical Days of Summer Campaign is officially at an end, there is a serious issue to address before going into the Fall Safety Campaign. There were more fatalities this summer than in the prior two years.
"There were 22 Air Force-wide fatalities due to lack of proper safety measures,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Welin, 446th Airlift Wing Chief of Safety at McChord Air Force Base, Wash. "We understand some accidents are inevitable, however, many can be avoidable. People are forgetting about Operational Risk Management."
According to Master Sgt. Dean Jones, 446th AW Ground Safety assistant manager, the majority of motor-vehicle accidents occur during the holiday season. "Most of the deaths occurred during the weeks of Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day," said Sergeant Jones. "People think that because the days are longer, they can squeeze more things in, like errands they couldn't get done during the work week. They end up getting tired and worn out." They want to hurry up and make it to the party and end up driving too fast, swerving to avoid another driver, and end up hitting a tree, said Sergeant Jones.
Alcohol also tends to be a factor impacting holiday fatalities, said Colonel Welin. People decide to hydrate with the wrong fluids at high temperatures, so not only are they severely dehydrated, they figure because the day is longer, they can behind the wheel of a vehicle. That's a bad combination.
Fall and Winter Driving Hazards
With the daylight hours getting shorter and school being back in session, it gives people a whole new focus, according to Colonel Welin. "We have to consider now that there are more kids out and less daylight," said Colonel Welin. "That factored with the combination of more rain and leaves on the ground, it might as well be ice."
In October, black ice will be a problem in the mornings, said Sergeant Jones. It can be a rude awakening if you're not from the area. Another thing to consider, according to Sergeant Jones is the fact that more rainfall causes the oil from the roads to surface, allowing for the potential of hydroplaning.
Mountain pass conditions, for commuters and people going to and from Seattle Seahawks', Washington State University Cougars', and University of Washington Huskies' games, are going to be a lot more hazardous later in the year, said Sergeant Jones. Commuters are going to have to allow themselves more travel time and check the Washington State Department of Transportation Web site for weather and road conditions.
Vehicle Maintenance Imperative
One of the biggest items people seem to miss is fuel line freeze-up, according to Colonel Welin. "If you don't remember the last time you added fuel injector cleaner to your fuel tank, you might want to consider doing it soon," said Colonel Welin. "You don't want to get stuck on the pass because your fuel line froze." He said having an emergency kit is a great way to prepare for a hazardous situation. "You should, at minimum, have a blanket, water, meal ready to eat, band aids, hazard flares, global positioning system, a collapsible shovel, and pain reliever."
Replacing windshield wipers and checking tire pressure and tread depth are other critical items that shouldn't be slept on, said Colonel Welin. "Make sure you have your windshield wipers replaced if you've had them over a year," said Colonel Welin. "Low tire pressure and shallow depth can be a problem if you decide to drive on I-5 at 6:00 in the morning.
With the high rate of Critical Days of Summer and the Fall Safety Campaign already in swing, Airmen should really need to be careful, resourceful, and be good Wingmen for the next season to come.
Jake Chappelle, TSgt, USAFR, works in 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.