LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
It's the most wonderful time of the year again! The holidays are a time filled with great food, presents and good times. Unfortunately, the season can also bring a Grinch-like influx of fire hazards, burglaries and vehicle accidents. Here are some statistics and tips to help you take care of yourself, your family and your Wingmen.
National statistics show the frequency of home fires increases around the holidays. Fortunately, Little Rock Air Force Base does not mirror national statistics when it comes to holiday fire hazards.
"This is primarily due to our very aggressive fire prevention programs and the willingness of the base populace in keeping fire safety a priority in their day-to-day activities," said James Farrell, 19th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief for fire prevention.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year, one out of every 66 reported Christmas tree fires results in a death. Also, more than one of every four Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.
Small steps can be taken to prevent such catastrophes:
1. Be aware real trees burn much quicker than artificial trees
2. When setting up a tree, don’t overload it with decorative lights
3. Dry trees burn very rapidly, so be sure to water live trees every day
4. Keep candles or space heaters at least three feet from any tree
Cooking fires, particularly turkey fryers, can be just as dangerous as Christmas tree fires according to Farrell. The leading cause is unattended cooking.
“The use of turkey fryers is particularly hazardous, and requires extra vigilance” Farrell said. “You must emphasize safety around these fryers to prevent burns and other injuries.”
Home break-ins or robberies
Another major concern around this time of year is burglaries. Police agencies see spikes in car and home break-ins around this time every year, according to national crime statistics. Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen and their families are not immune from crime.
Base crime prevention experts stress the importance of being aware and paying attention to detail when combating crime during the holidays. While property crime is relatively minimal on LRAFB, opportunistic crime still happens from time to time.
Here are some preventive steps to take:
- Lock doors and don't repeat patterns daily
“Thieves know a lot of people will be out of town,” said Jeffery Bardsley, 19th Security Forces Squadron chief of plans and programs. “Try not to leave your home unattended when possible.”
- Leave exterior lights on and have a trusted friend collect your mail and newspapers
“Something as small as taking out the trash could provide a treasure of information for crooks,” Bardsley said. “Leaving boxes in front of your house tells thieves what you've just bought; be aware, and don't give criminals opportunity for crime.”
- Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle and if you must, hide them to avoid a “smash and grab”
- If you see something suspicious, report it
If you live on base and want a Defender to check your quarters while you’re away, simply come into the 19th Security Forces Squadron headquarters, building 481, and fill out a form. Your home will be checked on once every 24 hours until you return.
On the road
“What’s the most dangerous thing you do every day?” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Chalquest, 19th Airlift Wing Occupational Safety technician. “If you said driving, you are absolutely right. Driving is the leading cause of deaths in the Air Force and this hazard is heightened when you add in the holiday season.”
When it pertains to vehicle accidents there are three main preventable causes, known as the three D’s:
- Distracted driving
Be sure to use hand free devices so that your attention is always on the road during one of the peak travel times in the year and stay vigilant. Even if you do everything right when driving, someone else may not be as responsible.
- Drunk driving
Think ahead and have a plan. If your plan falls through, reach out to an agency like Airmen Against Drunk Driving.
- Drowsy driving
During the holiday season it is imperative to think ahead and plan properly to ensure adequate rest before embarking on your journey.
The roadways become even more hazardous when the weather turns cold. Black ice, high winds, thunderstorms, flash floods and other drivers are just some of the perilous conditions that can occur in the blink of an eye.
“Compound these factors with congested roadways during peak travel season and you have a recipe for disaster,” Chalquest said. “Having a plan in any of these instance can save your life. Think ahead.”
(Editor’s note: original article written by Staff Sgt. Harry Brexel, updated by Senior Airman Grace Nichols)