June 18, 2009

Army supports National Safety Month in June

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — The National Safety Council has declared June as National Safety Month. Summer brings an entirely new set of hazards that are just lurking around the corner that may trap the unwary and unprepared. Summer also means time at the beach for Army personnel and their families with many hazards associated with rip currents, watercraft operations, or sun and heat exposure. National Safety Month is designed to increase a person's knowledge of safety hazards and how to prevent them.

While safety is paramount 24/7/365, personnel need to be reminded to practice good safety habits. The Virginia National Guard, in conjunction with the Army Combat Readiness Center and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Army Environmental Safety and Occupational Health, plan an all-out campaign this summer to ensure that Virginia Guardsmen and their families are aware of the hazards associated with summer and how to ensure they are doing all they can to stay safe.

Safety and health is essential in all aspects of daily living. Our Guardsmen, federal and state employees, contractors and their families are our most important assets. The Virginia Guard wants to ensure all personnel and their families have a safe and enjoyable summer.

This summer, more than 10 million boats will be launched into bodies of water all around the country by people anticipating a day full of fun. But, without the proper preparation, equipment and safety considerations, that day on the water might end up more of a nightmare than a dream.

In 2007, 685 people were killed in boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The top five contributing factors in these accidents were inattention, reckless operation, passenger/skier behavior, excessive speed, and alcohol use.

"While boating is a fun experience, remember that it comes with responsibilities too," John Clancy, Outdoor Recreation program manager at Fort Rucker, Ala., said. "In order to have a fun and memorable trip on the water you need to be safe and you can do this by being prepared for anything that could happen."

The weather forecasters are predicting another hot summer. We already know that July, August and September are the hottest months of the year, so it's best that everyone prepare for the summer's heat.

Each year, heat illness and injury pose a significant threat to Army personnel, both on and off duty. Soldiers are exposed to hot environments during deployments and training events and, when off duty, they and their families are exposed to the summer heat during outdoor activities.

Between 2004 and 2008, heat-related injuries were diagnosed at more than 300 medical facilities worldwide. However, 14 facilities treated at least 200 cases each and accounted for approximately 60 percent of all cases. Since 2005, rates of heat stroke have been fairly stable, and rates of heat exhaustion have slightly declined.

Military activities in hot and humid environments are persistent, significant threats to the health and operational effectiveness of servicemembers. Of all servicemembers, the youngest and most inexperienced are at highest risk of heat related injuries.

Early recognition of heat injuries is critical to prevent progression to more serious heat injury and death.

Minor heat illnesses such as heat cramps are the first sign of heat injury and can lead heat exhaustion which can in turn lead to a major heat injury like heat stroke.

Visit the Safety and Occupational Health link to access additional resources for summer safety- http://vko.va.ngb.army.mil/VirginiaGuard/safetyandhealth/index.html

Summer and Vacation Safety Tips

  • Before you start a car trip, check your car (battery, tires, belts and fluids) or have it serviced if necessary and pack an emergency kit
  • Make sure your child safety seats and booster seats are properly installed and ensure all occupants are buckled up, with children in the back seat

  • Obey speed limits and all roadway signs and drive calmly

  • Take frequent two-hour breaks and avoid driving when tired

  • Remember to swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard

  • Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather; and do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating

  • Remember alcohol and boating and swimming never mix

  • Use Coast Guard-approved life jackets for yourself and your passengers when boating and fishing

  • Watch the weather and know local weather conditions. Stop boating or swimming as soon as you see or hear a storm

  • Always drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks when working or playing in the hot weather

  • Don't forget the sunscreen or sun block
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