101 Critical Days of Summer defending the human weapon system

  • Published
  • By Lisa Gonzales
  • Air Force Safety Center

The 101 Critical Days of Summer begins Memorial Day weekend and continues through Labor Day weekend. During this timeframe, Airmen and Guardians tend to participate in more outdoor activities, travel, barbeque, and explore new things over a season that has historically come with a higher risk of danger.

This year, the Air Force Safety Center is reinvigorating the 101 Critical Days of Summer with off-duty risk management materials created to educate Airmen and Guardians on the risks associated with summer activities. This year’s theme will be “See Something, Do Something … Live to be Lethal”.

Risk management isn’t only for on-duty but belongs in people’s daily lives to defend the Human Weapon System, the Airmen, from unnecessary threats that could result in injury or even death.

Reaching the goal of zero mishaps and fatalities begins with every Airman and Guardian. Over the past ten summers, 2013-2022, beginning the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, there have been 134 unnecessary fatalities off duty. The top three riskiest activities were four-wheeled motor vehicles (47), followed by motorcycles (41), and water-related activities & sports (19). One Airman or Guardian lost to a preventable mishap is one too many.

Additionally, a new trend shows a growing number of e-bike and e-scooter mishaps. E-scooters and e-bikes provide a convenient and easy way of getting around in a crowded city, they are compact, lightweight, and environmentally friendly, but they can also be dangerous if not used with the proper training and the right personal protective equipment. Just like any motorized vehicle, you should always follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines when it comes to use and PPE.

Summer is a time to enjoy the warm summer days with family and friends, not spend time in the emergency room or, worse, mourning the loss of a loved one, friend, or co-worker. It is a time to be committed to reducing the chance of disaster simply by speaking up before it happens.

According to the National Safety Council, an average of 17,503 people died every summer between 2016 and 2020 on roadways across the U.S. Don’t be one of those statistics; prepare for your trip by getting your vehicle checked out, plan ahead to combat inclement weather and fatigue, and ensure that an emergency kit is included with your bags stocked with vehicle supplies, extra water, food, batteries, and a phone charger.

Motorcycle riders should be 100% trained, prepared, and equipped with the required skills and proactive mindset to ride safely. Unfortunately, in the first four months of FY23 alone, the Department of the Air Force experienced seven motorcycle fatalities. The leading cause of those fatalities pointed to the lack of risk management, speeding and alcohol.

“Enjoy your summer, but do it responsibly,” said William Walkowiak, chief of Occupational Safety for the DAF. “I challenge each of you to make a risk assessment before participating in summer activities to prevent or mitigate injuries or deaths.”

The World Health Organizations states that drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death worldwide.

Water activities like boating, fishing, and swimming can cool a person off, but one wrong decision could mean injury or death. So remember to use a life jacket around the water, don’t drink and boat or swim, always keep an eye on small children, and make sure they have life jackets on.

The summer days can become extremely hot, and heat cramps, stroke, or exhaustion can happen quickly. Be prepared to help someone in trouble. Get them out of the sun and cool them down by applying water, cool air, wet sheets, or ice on the neck, groin, or armpits. Seek medical attention immediately.

Stay hydrated this summer; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that an average adult loses about two and a half quarts of water daily. Water helps your body lubricate and cushion joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. Drinking approximately eight to twelve glasses of water throughout the day will help the body stay hydrated. If you plan to be outside in the sun, consider drinking more. Dehydration can happen before you know it; if out in the sun, know the signs, headaches, nausea, dry skin, and muscle or joint soreness are just a few.

It is imperative that Airmen and Guardians implement proper off-duty risk management in every activity they engage in during the 101 Critical Days of Summer and beyond.

Go to the Air Force Safety Center’s summer webpage for more tips at https://www.safety.af.mil/Divisions/Occupational-Safety-Division/Summer-Safety/.