Playing it safe

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

In 2015, there were 340 deaths and 97,200 injuries related to all-terrain vehicle incidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. To help combat these statistics and increase safety for Airmen and their families, the 354th Fighter Wing safety office provides classes teaching proper riding habits and equipment to ride safely.

On Sept. 14, 2017, seven Airmen from the 354th FW became certified to instruct ATV safety courses to improve awareness of safe ATV use and to allow for riding on base.

“Each year we train about 150 people through the ATV course,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Blasengame, a 354th FW occupational safety manager. “All together we teach around 200 people on all recreational vehicles, such as ATVs, dirt bikes, and side-by-sides.”

While the courses train families and dependents, their priority is to train Airmen who use those vehicles to complete their mission.

Detachment 460, the civil engineer squadron, security forces, etc. all use ATVs, snow machines and other vehicles to complete their jobs, said Blasengame. The courses exist for their training, but it’s also important to train others so they can practice riding safely on base.

Through both mission essential and recreational training courses for these types of vehicles, the safety office reduces risk of injury and death related to improper use.

“The course does a great job of explaining that an ATV is a rider active machine, meaning your body weight and position control the machine just as much as your hands and head,” said Tech. Sgt James Kot, a 354th Contracting Squadron command support staff. “I have been riding on Eielson for 6 years now and I have seen friends make simple mistakes which resulted in roll overs and concussions.”

The base’s ATV safety course teaches individuals the importance of staying engaged in the activity, conscious of the environment and their skills.

“The mistake was either over confidence in their ability or misunderstanding of how the ATV would react in a path of travel,” said Kot. “The course highlights these two items well with SIPDE thinking process.”

Scan, identify, predict, decide, execute; is a process that teaches riders to look at their environment, identify possible hazards, predict what could happen, decide to how to respond, and finally implement the plan they’ve formulated. By doing this riders will be less likely to make risky decisions that could result in injury or death.

Through the ATV safety course, and others like it, the 354th FW safety office propels the Air Force mission by keeping Airmen and their families safe, both while working and playing.