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Enjoying the holidays safely

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The holiday season is a time to reflect and give thanks for our many blessings like our country, the freedoms we enjoy, family and friends, and for our health and physical well being. I urge everyone to reflect on how often we take these precious things for granted. Think about how quickly our lives can be shattered by a drunk driver or by a shortcut in proper procedures that ends in disaster. At this time of year, it is appropriate to celebrate in your own way those things you hold most dear, but use caution in your activities. Exercise common sense and follow these guidelines to help reduce your personal risk over the holidays:

1. Plan out your holiday travel and don't overextend your capabilities. Make sure you start out well rested and build in rest stops periodically throughout the trip. While driving, avoid any distractions such as texting or talking on a cell phone that diverts your attention from focusing 100 percent on other traffic and the road. Buckle-up and make sure all of the safety features of your vehicle work so you and your family are protected in case of an accident.

2. Have a good time celebrating, but know when to say you have had enough to drink. Use the Wingman principle and make sure you have a plan to get home and watch out for your family and friends to make sure they are taken care of. If you are hosting a party, ensure to have soft drinks and food available and pre-assign designated drivers to help get your guests home.

3. Get out and enjoy all of the winter activities that Idaho has to offer, but know your personal limits. Make sure you have the correct gear and training before you head out to ski or snowboard. Watch the weather and dress appropriately to prevent cold weather injuries. If you are headed out to partake in back country activities such as snowmobiling or cross country skiing, employ the Wingman principle and make sure you tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to return.

4. It is winter in Idaho, so be prepared for inclement weather. Drive at a speed appropriate to the road conditions and carry traction devices if you plan on driving through the mountain passes. Keep warm clothing with you in case the weather changes. Check your vehicle to make sure it is winterized and keep a survival kit in your car with blankets, food, fire starting materials, and a shovel in case you get stranded. If you do get stuck, stay with your vehicle until help arrives.

Winter is now upon us, bringing another year of holiday fun and family gatherings. Whether you are traveling to be with loved ones, enjoying the outdoors, or simply staying at home; be sure to apply personal risk management to every occasion. As with everything we do on-duty, in this time of increased off-duty activities, we need to apply good common sense to prevent mishaps and ensure we all have a safe season and good beginning to the New Year.