101 Critical Days of Summer means making safety a top level priority

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, marks the beginning of the 101 Critical Days of Summer. This period, which will last until Labor Day, is one of the most deadly times for our Airmen. What should be considered a time of rest, travel and relaxation often ends up in tragedy.

Ironically, many people will lose their lives while enjoying the very summer activities that they have waited all fall, winter and spring to enjoy. Statistically, private motor vehicle, motorcycles and water accidents have been the most dangerous activities for our service members and their families.

Don't forget to use risk management in all your summer activities. Carefully maintain your vehicles, plan your trips (including adequate rest stops), have alternate plans, and communicate your plan to someone who is not traveling with you. As wingmen, ensure you help other Airmen to do the same.

The imperative of avoiding alcohol while driving cannot be overemphasized. Drinking and driving do not mix; drinking and boating do not mix. In fact, alcohol does not mix with any outdoor activity. Use common sense, be decisive and don't let your friends drive drunk. If you've been drinking, use a designated driver or call a taxi.

The increase in water-related activities during the summer months reminds us to be more cautious and aware of the risks involved. Personal floatation devices are a must and everyone should use them. Even the best swimmers can become statistics under adverse conditions. Don't let a water-related outing or a day at the beach turn into a tragedy.

Summer is a time to play and enjoy outings with family and friends. Enjoy your barbecue, but keep your children away from the fire, and don't overdo it with the lighter fluid. Cook and store your food properly to avoid a visit to the local emergency room. As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature zone at which bacteria grow.

It is up to each and every one of us to plan and prepare for not only the obvious risks, but also for those little things that always pop up. Enjoy your summer all the way through Labor Day. Remember that accidents don't take a holiday or time off. Don't become a statistic.