‘Tis the season for winter safety tips

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Miguel Rosales
  • 21st Space Wing chief of safety
As the leaves begin to fall and the sun sets on summer, it is important to get prepared for the coming winter months. Whether you and your family will be staying at home relaxing in front of a cozy fire, enjoying the outdoors, or taking a trip to visit family and friends it is important to be prepared, be safe, and use sound judgment. Here are a few helpful tips/reminders that may help you and your families enjoy the coming winter months and stay injury free.

With the cold weather upon us, it is important to make sure your home's heating system is functioning properly. Having a professional check your furnace prior to start up is always a good idea. Don't forget to change your furnace filter on a regular basis. For those who like to enjoy the warmth of a fireplace, remember to keep the chimney clean and remove ash from the fireplace regularly.

One of the easiest yet most overlooked safety precautions you can take is checking your home's smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These devices serve as your first notification in the event of a fire or gas leak. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly to ensure they are in good working order. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of carbon monoxide poisonings occur in December and January.

But winter safety isn't just for application at home. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, in 2009 an estimated 16,948 patients were treated for head injuries in U.S. hospital emergency rooms as a result of participating in winter sports (skiing, sledding, snowboarding, and snowmobiling). For those who enjoy partaking in winter sports, here are a few things to keep in mind:

- Ensure your equipment is in good repair before hitting the slopes.
- Use all the appropriate personal protective equipment so you can safely enjoy your outdoor activity.
- Exposure to cold weather increases your chances of getting frostbite or hypothermia -- always dress appropriately and account for the worst possible conditions.

Finally, the holiday season is a time to celebrate and get together with family and friends. If you will be traveling, winterize your vehicle and put together a vehicle winter survival kit. Before starting your trip, it is a good idea get your vehicle serviced. At a minimum, inspect your vehicle's tires, antifreeze concentration and ensure you have an adequate supply of windshield deicer. Keep your gas tank full or near full in case you are caught in heavy or slow moving traffic, or become stranded.

A simple vehicle winter survival kit can come in handy if you become stuck or stranded. Here is a list of some recommended items to keep in your kit:

- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Shovel
- Ice scraper
- Blanket
- Jumper cables

Before venturing out, always let someone, whether it is a loved one or your wingman, know where you are going and when you'll be back. Use sound personal risk management; nobody knows your abilities or limitations better than you.

So whether you're staying at home relaxing in front of a cozy fire, enjoying the outdoors or taking a trip to visit family and friends, remember proper preparation and sound judgment will help you have a safe and enjoyable winter season.

For more information on winter safety visit the National Safety Council's website at http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/SafetyObservances/Pages/WinterSafety.aspx.