101 Critical Days of Summer Continues to Promote Risk Management On and Off Duty

By CAPT PAIGE MEHRINGER, AIR FORCE SAFETY CENTER PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Many of us drive to the beach each summer, where we can soak up the sun, feel the hot sand beneath our feet, and beat the season’s heat by racing into the cool ocean waves. However, these pastimes include three of the biggest risks during the 101 Critical Days of Summer: driving, excessive heat, and water.

The 101 Critical Days of Summer, an initiative that begins each Memorial Day weekend and continues through Labor Day, promotes on-duty (or operational) and off-duty risk management skills to ensure that Airmen, Guardians, and their families stay safe during what should be one of the most enjoyable times of the year.

“Our Airmen and Guardians are on mission[s] around the world, and they integrate proactive safety measures into their military operations every day,” said Maj Gen Sean Choquette, Department of the Air Force (DAF) Chief of Safety and Commander of the Air Force Safety Center. “As summer approaches, we are here to help everyone apply that same level of thoughtful risk management in our personal lives as we enjoy our summer activities.”

Why is the 101 Critical Days of Summer a necessary campaign? Some of summertime’s biggest risks are also preventable. According to the National Safety Council, data for 2021 shows that motor vehicle fatalities increased during the summer months by as much as 405 deaths. Drowning-related deaths increased that year in June, July, and August by as much as 333 fatalities, and excessive heat-related deaths increased by as much as 193 fatalities.

In the summer of 2023, DAF experienced 190 mishaps involving motor vehicles, with 85 percent occurring off-duty. Additionally, DAF had 228 off-duty mishaps that occurred during sports and recreational activities, 21 of which involved water. Unfortunately, this time last year, the Department lost 20 lives.

In light of these statistics and loss, it is crucial to prioritize safety. To help jumpstart the summer season safely, the following are a few tips for driving: Stay hydrated during long drives to keep alert and focused; plan to stop at rest areas to prevent fatigue; buckle up (this rule goes for passengers too); and be sure to get your car serviced to ensure the air conditioning system is operating properly to keep the vehicle cool and comfortable during the hottest days.

As plans are made to enjoy the summer weather at pools, lakes, or oceans, be aware that although it keeps you cool, the water comes with its own set of safety hazards. The following are a few safety tips for being in or around large bodies of water: Research the potential hazards (like rip tides and drop-offs), wear the proper floatation devices, and know your local boating laws. In addition, although you may feel comfortable, be cautious of sun exposure. It is always important to wear sunscreen and the correct type of clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.

Just like at the beach, protecting yourself against heat exposure and other hazards is imperative when hanging outdoors for long periods. The following are a few safety tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses: Stay hydrated, seek shade during peak sun hours, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and take frequent breaks to cool down. Familiarizing yourself with the rules, regulations, and tips for outdoor activities (like yard work) to prevent accidents before they occur can also help. Your risk assessments and precautions will help keep you, your loved ones, and the mission safe.

“Our Occupational Safety Division works hard to provide our Airmen, Guardians, and their families with the tools and information they need to enjoy their summer safely,” stated William Walkowiak, Chief of Occupational Safety at the Air Force Safety Center. “Similar to last year, we challenge everyone to assess the risks of any activities this season to prevent injuries or worse.”

With so many preventable injuries and deaths occurring in the summer months, you are encouraged to implement the appropriate risk management on- and off-duty. The goal of having zero mishaps and fatalities begins with you and your safety practices, and DAF is here to help!

Visit the Air Force Safety Center’s Summer Safety page at www.safety.af.mil for more seasonal safety and risk management tips.