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NEWS | Nov. 18, 2013

JBLE stays safe during holidays

By Airman 1st Class Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The holidays are a time for family, food and fun. However, potential hazards exist beyond the festivities if not managed properly.

The 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and 633rd Security Forces Squadron at Langley Air Force Base offer tips and facts regarding fires, thefts, driving and high risk days to keep the community safe during the holiday season.

Fryers, fires and firs
Turkey dinner is the foremost symbol of Thanksgiving tradition. Many Americans prepare their bird using a deep fryer. While deep frying is a great way to cook a delicious turkey, it also carries significant risk. Each year approximately 1,800 deep-fryer fires are responsible for five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of 900 homes and more than $15 million in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

It all starts with a splash of oil from the fryer landing on a dry, wooden porch, potentially engulfing the porch -- and possibly home -- in flames, which can lead to loss of property and life.

According to Christian Jacobs, 633rd CES fire inspector, when frying a turkey, know the amount of oil needed. Do not place fryers on wooden decks, in garages or anywhere near combustible materials. Always use them outdoors and make sure to utilize oven mitts before touching the pot or handles. Also never deep-fry a frozen turkey; always thaw turkeys thoroughly before frying, as the ice within the turkey will melt when cooking, which doesn't mix well with oil and creates a fire hazard. Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors at least 10 feet from buildings and any materials that can burn, said Jacobs.

"Never use water to extinguish a grease fire," said Jacobs. "If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher and immediately call 911 for help."

After the Thanksgiving feast, many families will adorn a tree with ornaments, decorations and lights -- a recipe for fire if not done properly.

Studies done from 2003-2007 by the NFPA showed 170 home-structure fires were caused by holiday lights and other decorative lighting. From those fires, there were seven deaths and more than $7 million in property damage.

Ensure that decorations are flame-resistant or flame-retardant and only buy lights that are tested by an independent testing laboratory, said Jacobs.

In addition to lighting, heat-producing appliances, such as space heaters, also pose a fire risk. Most often, incorrectly positioning heaters causes fires. A 36-inch clearance must be maintained between the heater and any object or wall while in use.

The use of space heaters on base is prohibited unless specifically authorized annually by the base fire marshal. Additionally, the use of live holiday trees is prohibited, said Jacobs.

"On base, with the exception of family living quarters, all holiday decorations are required to be inspected by the fire department prior to installation, and must be removed by the end of the first week in January," said Jacobs. "At no time can any decoration inhibit the sight, sound or function of any fire safety device."

Preventing Theft
Busy stores packed with shoppers looking to spend money on gifts on dark autumn evenings present an opportunity for thieves to strike victims, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marquin King, 633rd SFS criminal intelligence analyst.

King offered the following tips to protect holiday shoppers:
  • After dark, shop with a friend if possible. 
  • Bring only as much cash or as many credit cards as you will need to shop to avoid the possibility of losing more valuable items.
  • Always try to park in a well-lit area.
  • Keep vehicle doors and windows locked while driving or when parked.
  • Avoid carrying too many packages.
  • Make sure your visibility is clear and you have freedom of motion to help discourage purse snatchers.
  • Keep packages locked in the vehicle's trunk, even if this means making several trips to the car. Leave nothing of value visible.
  • Be alert -- purses or wallets may be a target for crime in crowded shopping areas, bus stops and on buses.
  • If someone demands your purse or wallet, surrender it immediately--it is not worth a life. If a wallet is stolen, report it to the police by calling 911. 
  • Keep a record of credit card numbers, as there may be a need for them when reporting the crime.
  • Have keys in hand when walking to your car or home.
  • Be aware of surroundings and anyone approaching your vehicle. 
  • Never resist if a robber or carjacker threatens you.
Staying safe on the roads
With the upcoming holidays also comes family road trips. The Joint Base Langley-Eustis Safety office advises holiday drivers adhere to the following tips:
  • Drive slowly and maintain several car lengths between vehicles.
  • Leave early to anticipate unforeseen road conditions.
  • Watch speed. Faster speeds mean less reaction time. Posted limits are for dry, clear conditions. Adjust driving speed for the conditions.
  • Keep emotions under control. Don't allow the actions of other drivers to cause you to act in a reckless or in an unprofessional manner. Aggressive driving usually only gains a minute or two, but it increases your odds of being involved in an accident.
  • Check mirrors often, about every 5 seconds. 
  • Don't get distracted. Activities to avoid while driving are using a cell phone, texting, reading a GPS device, eating, drinking, putting on makeup or writing notes.
  • Above all, wear a seat belt.
In addition to following routine driving tips, Service members are also advised not to drive while under the influence of alcohol. According to Master Sgt. Rachel Singletary, 633rd Medical Squadron acting first sergeant, having a plan is the safesy way to ensure a fun holiday season.

"Even if you do not have a plan, there is always another avenue to go [other than driving while under the influence]," said Singletary.  "The worst holiday present a family could receive is the message of an accident."

Risk of attack
Between Nov. 9 and Jan. 1, the 633rd SFS has identified nine days as high-risk opportunities, based on prior terrorist attacks and the social and cultural significance of holidays in the U.S.
  • Nov. 22, 2013 - 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy assassination
  • Nov. 26 - Terrorists attack several sites in Mumbai, India in 2008. The siege ended three days later with more than 170 dead and 300 wounded.
  • Nov. 28 - Thanksgiving Day
  • Dec. 5 - Hanukkah
  • Dec. 25 - Christmas
  • Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve
  • Jan. 1, 2014 - New Year's Day
"All personnel should remain vigilant," said King. "Previous attempts to attack the United States during the holiday season dictate the need for awareness."

If suspicious activity is noticed, contact the suspicious activity line immediately--take note of the time, location, people involved, event, and if possible take a photograph of the scene or event.

For more information about holiday safety, call the Langley Fire Prevention Office at 764-4275, Fort Eustis Fire Department at 878-4281 or the non-emergency 633rd SFS help desk at 764-7766. To report suspicious activities, call the Langley Law Enforcement Desk at 764-5091/2 or the Fort Eustis 733rd SFS desk at 878-4555.