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Risk assessment helps make holiday travels safer

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 1, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

Air Force members and their families will be among the millions of Americans who will be hitting the roads in the coming weeks to visit loved ones or vacation destinations for the Christmas holidays.

            To ensure those travels are safe, proper planning before leaving the driveway is essential, said a Joint Base San Antonio safety official.

            “Planning is your risk assessment,” said John McLaughlin, 502nd Air Base Wing safety and occupational health specialist at JBSA-Lackland. “By doing that, you actually are not reacting to a situation, you are being proactive.”

            Planning starts with an inspection of the vehicle, McLaughlin said.

“One of the main things to inspect are the seat belts,” he said. “If they are frayed, they can fail in an accident. You should also take care of general maintenance items, such as tires and fluids. You don’t want to get trapped on a snowy road or in the middle of the desert.”

            Packing appropriate clothing is another essential element of trip preparation, McLaughlin said.

“Be sure to have suitable clothing for wherever you’re going,” he said.

            During the holidays, that typically means warm clothing for colder winter weather, but McLaughlin also noted that travelers should account for extreme fluctuations in temperatures, common in states such as Texas, by also packing clothing more appropriate for warm weather.

            “You should also make sure you have blankets on hand as well as food and water in the event of a roadside emergency,” he said.

            Travelers should ensure their homes are safe and secure while they are gone by following a few measures, McLaughlin said. An important step is setting the home’s alarm system.

            “There are many instances where people forgot to set their alarm and their homes were burglarized,” he said.

            Other precautions are turning off stoves, fans and appliances.

            Freezing pipes are always a concern during the winter months, so thermostats should be set at 60 degrees before departing, McLaughlin said.

            “That will help with your heating bill but also keep the house warm enough to keep indoor pipes from freezing,” he said. “You should also have someone watch your house and make sure water is dripping from outdoor faucets when the temperature reaches freezing.”

            People who are traveling by plane should also be prepared for their journey, McLaughlin said.

            “You need to be up to date with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and know what you can and can’t carry on the plane,” he said. “Empty your bags after packing them to make sure you’re not carrying prohibited items. You don’t want any surprises when the bags are checked.”

            Once on the road, drivers have responsibilities to ensure their passengers are safe, McLaughlin said.

            “Don’t drink and drive, and stay off your cellphones,” he said.

            If travelers are stranded on roadways, the Air Force Safety Center recommends they stay calm, get their vehicles as far off the road as safely possible and turn on emergency flashers; call or text for roadside assistance; make the vehicle visible; and remain in the vehicle until help is visible.