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Prepare Now for a Great Winter Season

MADISON, Wis -- We've made it through our annual "101 Critical Days of Summer" safety season and it looks like winter is right around the corner! I'd like to take a little time to encourage you to think very carefully about your preparations for winter and how you can protect yourself and your family from potential winter disasters.

First of all, common sense is paramount during the winter season. Look at the weather forecasts and the current conditions and ask yourself, "Do I really need to go outside or take that trip today?" We constantly talk of Operational Risk Management when conducting operations on base, and the same principles should apply at home. What's the benefit vs.. the risk of any particular event at any particular time?

Most important during the winter season is being prepared. I would recommend having a local weather and radar site bookmarked on your computer or cell phone, and check it regularly. The weather forecasts can change dramatically over several hours. This can provide you with the latest information before you head out on a trip, hunting, fishing, sledding, or skiing. If you are into these or other winter outdoor sports, prepare now, before the season starts. Follow some of these easy guidelines for maximum safety and fun:

Hunting: Have your gun safety-checked by a certified gunsmith, especially if you haven't used it since last year, and go to a local range to sight it in; ensure your hunting clothes are warm enough and visible enough; follow firearms safety rules at all times (assume every gun is loaded, don't point the gun at anything you do not intend to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, know your target and what's beyond); if you haven't had a hunter safety course in a while, maybe it's time for a refresher; have emergency provisions and communications with you at all times in case you become lost or stranded.

Fishing: Ensure the ice is thick enough! Remember what I mentioned earlier: is the benefit worth the severe risk? If you have a fishing shack, make sure the heater is approved for indoor use and is in proper working order; be careful of getting wet - frostbite and hypothermia is only accelerated.

Snow sports: Wear a helmet and always remain in control! Have your snowmobile tuned up; check your ski bindings for proper operation; if you travel cross-country by ski or snowmobile, take your cell phone, food, and water; be extra vigilant at night for obstacles and hazards; plan your route and let someone know it and when you expect to be back.

In all cases, alcohol does not mix well with cold weather! Of course, we all know the danger that alcohol poses to our judgment and reflexes, but there's another more insidious danger. While a "little sip" may make you feel warmer temporarily, it's the blood going from the core of the body to the skin that makes it feel that way, actually making your core temperature drop more rapidly, leading to hypothermia.

Many of you may not be winter sports enthusiasts, but you still need to take precautions. Before winter sets in too harshly, do a few things to get your home ready. Have your furnace checked by a qualified technician; add insulation in attics and walls, if necessary; have adequate food, water, and supplies for a couple days; keep a couple flashlights and plenty of extra batteries handy; keep your cell phones charged at all times in case electricity goes out or phone lines go down, so you can call for help.

Your car must also be prepared for winter. Check your oil, tires, battery, antifreeze, and heater operation before those become critical items in a winter storm. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be there. Watch for driving hazards, like deer! Always carry a survival kit and cell phone in your car. We all remember the terrible traffic jam on I-94 a couple years ago, so be prepared. Even a short trip can find you stuck for some amount of time.

For an excellent winter preparedness checklist and other resources, go to:

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/

Be prepared, be safe, and let's have a great winter season!
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