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Safety paramount during holiday season

Published: 12:54PM December 6th, 2012

The winter holidays are upon us, but a lapse in safety can put a real damper on everyone’s joy.

Over the next few weeks, service members, military families and our JBLM civilian employees will be preparing for the holidays, and some will be traveling. Each year holiday-related DUIs, accidental home fires, and weather-related car accidents touch the JBLM community. Here are a few safety reminders to ensure everyone is here to welcome the New Year.

Safe celebrations

The holiday season is synonymous with celebration, but it’s important for troops, family members, and civilians to make safety part of their plans. Whether you travel home during the holiday exodus, or stay in the area or on base for the holidays, here are a few tips.

Alcohol is a staple of many holiday gatherings, but it’s also a contributing factor in many accidents.

During 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes — one every 51 minutes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. On average, 25 people were killed in alcohol-related accidents every day that December.

The risks involved with drinking and driving are not worth it. If you choose to drink, don’t drive. In addition to the human cost, a driving under the influence conviction can ruin a career.

Don’t let indiscipline override your decisions.

• Plan ahead; be sure to designate a sober driver before the party begins.

• If you will be drinking, don’t plan on driving. Remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving.

• Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, don’t let them get behind the wheel. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.

Winter home fire prevention

According to the National Fire Protection Association, home fires increase during winter because more people are cooking and entertaining, and there’s an increased use of space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.

Always stay in the kitchen when cooking and pay attention to the stovetop. Never leave the food unattended. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, like bedding, curtains and newspapers. Create a safe zone around the heater, and turn it off when you leave the room.

One of the best ways you can protect yourself and others is to ensure smoke alarms are working. Families should also develop and practice a fire escape plan.

Winter driving

Winter driving can be treacherous, here in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the country, but knowing your driving ability and making preparation are keys to preventing trouble. A little effort at the start of the season can pay off in terms of avoiding problems.

The following precautions from the National Safety Council can help keep you going on your winter travels. First, check your oil. Cooler temperatures can thicken your engine’s oil, so consult your owner’s manual to ensure yours is of the proper viscosity for the outside temperature.

Winter takes a toll on vehicle batteries. Replace batteries more than 4.5 years old, and also pay attention to your battery cables to ensure they are clean and corrosion free.

Ensure your vehicle has ample coolant, and replace radiator and other hoses with bulges or soft spots.

Windshield washer fluid should also be matched to local temperatures. The solution that works during summer can freeze solid when temperatures drop.

All-season tires might serve you well most of the year, but winter-specific tires have an aggressive tread pattern to help “bite” into the snow. To maintain even traction, use winter tires on all four wheels. Whatever tires you use, consistently monitor air pressure and tread during winter.

Drinking and driving can quickly turn a holiday celebration into a tragedy. Likewise, a home fire or a winter traffic accident can ruin the season. By taking simple precautions, service members, families, as well as our JBLM civilians can avoid potential hazards and make this time of year healthy and happy.