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Preparation key to winter safety

By Senior Airman Connor Estes | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 10, 2013

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — According to the National Weather Service, as the temperatures drop, the risk of dangerous winter weather increases. Planning ahead can help us stay safe through the winter season.

To combat cold-weather calamities, it is vital for Service members to be prepared by maintaining their vehicles and homes by adhering to established safety guidelines.


Vehicle safety

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, regularly servicing vehicles before traveling may reduce chances of breaking down. Motorists should check and replace anti-freeze, inspect headlights and taillights, ensure windshields are clean, check batteries and ensure tires are correctly inflated before taking a winter road trip.

Safe driving goes beyond allotting proper time to reach destinations. Driving conditions become more hazardous when temperatures drop below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Motorists should be aware of the threat of "black ice," a nearly-invisible coating of ice which makes asphalt roadways appear clear. It can form quickly when temperatures dip below freezing, and can remain in shaded areas, such as under bridges.

"Do not let a false sense of urgency cause you to take unnecessary risks while driving," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Harold Joe, 633rd Air Base Wing Safety Office superintendent. "Base your speed on driving conditions rather than speed limits, and ensure you 'arrive alive.'"

Drivers should always have a survival kit in the car containing an ice scraper, a flashlight, spare batteries, a blanket, a first aid kit, jumper cables and a reflective warning sign.


Safety at home

The threat of winter weather affects not only travelers, but those staying home as well. The colder temperatures present opportunities for people to exercise safe practices at home.

"Historically, more home fires occur during the months of December through February," said Richard Pettyjohn, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron fire prevention assistant chief. "With the onset of the holiday season, it is important to focus on fire safety and fire prevention."

According to Pettyjohn, the season brings an increased potential of fire hazards with the usage of electric from lights, decorations and candles. Additionally, cooking fires increase as families prepare more food to celebrate the holidays.

Pettyjohn said Service members can help ensure a fire safe holiday by following a few simple tips:

Holiday decorations:

· Choose decorations that are flame-resistant or flame-retardant.

· Don't mix and match indoor and outdoor lights, and replace worn and broken ones.

· Don't connect more than three strands of lights together; read manufacturer's instructions.

· Turn off indoor and outdoor lights before leaving the home or going to bed.

· Keep lit candles away from decorations and other flammable items. Don't leave candles within a child's reach.

Christmas trees:

· Be sure all artificial trees are identified as fire retardant by the manufacturer.

· For natural trees, choose one with fresh green needles that do not fall off when touched. Add water
daily to tree stands.

· When placing the tree, make sure it is at least three feet away from any heat source and is not blocking an exit.

· Never use lit candles to decorate trees.

Electrical outlets, surge protectors and multi-strips:

· Don't overload electrical outlets with multiple transformers, extension cords, surge protectors or multi-strips. As a good rule of thumb, plug only one transformer into one outlet and only one surge protector into one outlet.

· Periodically inspect plugs to ensure they're not crimped by furniture and are allowed to hang freely with no obstructions. Do not run cords under or over doorways or under carpets, or leave them lying around to become a trip hazard.

Cooking:

· Those who are fatigued or have consumed alcohol should not use the oven or stovetop.

· Stay in the kitchen while frying, grilling or broiling food. If you must leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove and remove the pan from the burner.

· When simmering, baking, roasting or broiling food, check it regularly, remain nearby and use a timer.

· Keep flammable items away from the stovetop.

· Keep pan handles turned inward to avoid spills.

· Have a "kid-free zone" of at least three feet around the stove.


Freezing temperatures

As temperatures plummet, issues can arise in homes such as stresses to hidden water pipework. When water freezes, it expands -- if pipes expand enough during freezing temperatures, they can burst. The same way a can of soda explodes if left in a freezer too long.

Jamie LaRoche, Bethel Manor Housing community director, recommends residents keep watch for freezing alerts. These warnings can allow residents to perform preventive measures, such as leaving a water tap trickling in a sink to avoid huge repair costs from water flooding inside the home.

When driving, putting up decorations, or winterizing your automobile and home, keeping safe can mean the difference between happy holidays or a hospital stay.

For more information and tips, visit http://www.weather.com/life/safety/winter/winter-safety_2011-10-05.