By Tim Shannon, First Army Division East Public Affairs
The statistics are staggering for such a small window of time. But according to Maj. Michael Sabatini, you don’t have to be one -- ever.
The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known in many circles as the 101 Critical Days of Summer. Army wide, off-duty fatalities between May and September rose nearly 20 percent over the past three years.
Army wide, over the last three years, 11 Soldiers drowned each year between May and September. Of the 61 Soldiers killed as a result of traffic accidents last Spring and Summer, 80 percent perished between April and Labor Day.
In 2011, First Army Division East saw three motorcycle accidents and one vehicle accident between the end of May and beginning of September. All resulted in injured Soldiers.
Again, said Sabatini, the First Army Division East Safety Officer, Soldiers don’t have to be a statistic. He urges all Soldiers to use composite risk management throughout the course of each summertime activity so that lives can be saved and accidents prevented.
“Summer is certainly a time to have fun, but it is also a time where we need to remain extremely vigilant about applying composite risk management to all of our summertime activities,” said Sabatini. “Summertime is historically the most risky and deadliest time of the year for our Soldiers off-duty. I encourage every Soldier, Department of the Army Civilian, and family member to access and use all of the accident prevention resources and tools that the U.S. Army Combat Readiness / Safety Center has put together on their website. These resources provide best practices which all users can learn from and prevent future accidents and fatalities from occurring.”
In a Safety message made earlier this year, Secretary of the Army John McHugh reinforced that while risk management is something Soldiers should always practice, summertime offers many opportunities for them to hone their risk management skills.
“While risk management deserves our attention and focus 24/7, our Army is again placing special emphasis on safety this summer by observing National Safety Month in June,” said McHugh. “This annual commemoration provides each of us with an opportunity to evaluate our safety programs and make necessary adjustments for the months ahead.”
First Army Division East recently hosted summer safety training. Sabatini focused on using the composite risk management to prevent accidents before they start. Using real world incidents, he showed, in most cases, how a single decision could have saved lives or prevented injuries.
“You don’t have to use an elaborate chart or download a matrix. Just stop and think about what you’re doing and plan out your activities. If you plan to drive a long distance, note where you can stop to rest. If you know alcohol will be at an event, determine, before you leave your house, how you will get home. Keep sunscreen handy. Never go on the water by yourself. These are little things that can and will save lives and prevent injuries,” Sabatini stressed.
“We don’t want to lose a single person to a preventable accident,” said First Army Division East Command Sergeant Major Edwin Rodriguez. “Use the. Enjoy the summer and all activities related but use common sense and the tools available to make sure you and your family stay safely.”
Alcohol and indiscipline play a large role in many summertime mishaps involving privately owned vehicles, motorcycles and boats, according Sabatini. Speeding, nonuse of seatbelts and protective gear, not using life preservers, as well as drinking and driving, unfortunately, contribute to many accidents. All of these, especially the alcohol-related accidents, are preventable.
Rodriguez took a little bit harder stance on his Soldiers drinking and driving. As the most senior enlisted Soldier at Div East, it is his responsibility to maintain good order and discipline and maintain mission readiness among the youngest and most vulnerable of Soldiers. According to Rodriguez, drinking and driving isn’t rank specific, but is more prevalent among the junior enlisted Soldiers.
“Soldiers looking for leniency from the Army after drinking and driving are going to be terribly disappointed,” said Rodriguez. “The Army takes this matter very seriously because drinking and driving directly affects mission readiness. If a Soldier, heaven forbid, gets into an accident while drinking and driving, we lose that Soldier for a time. Not only that, but there has to be an investigation, which means another Soldier’s time is going to be taken away from the mission to concentrate on a DUI. Then there’s legal ramifications which cuts into the commanding general’s busy schedule. Drinking and driving is selfish, and it hurts the Army. I have no time for it.”
Sabatini also urged Soldiers to stop texting and driving or using a phone without a hands free device. He reminded everyone present that texting and driving is illegal in several states now. Recently, Massachusetts convicted a teen for homicide as a result of texting and driving. He will serve one year in prison.
“For each summer activity you engage in, ask yourself, ‘where’s my next accident going to be?’ and then ask, ‘what am I doing to prevent it?” said Sabatini.
Along with recognizing June as National Safety month and conducting safety stand-downs and seminars, the Army has also rolled out a “Take 5 for Safety” program this year. At the Take 5 for Safety website, the Army has placed links to informative materials on issues such as driving distracted, heat injury prevention, motorcycle safety, water safety and fireworks safety. For more info on composite risk management, the Take 5 for Safety program or for safety tips in general, visit the Army’s Safety Center website at https://safety.army.mil/.
Before engaging in outside activities in the summer, make sure you have plenty of water, sun screen, and bug repellant on hand. Being aware of potential hazards and planning for even the smallest events can prevent injuries and accidents later.