Don't burn my what?

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffrey Kendall
  • 80th Flying Training Wing commander
So, there I was, sitting through yet another safety briefing at (unnamed) Air Force Base. Listening. Or rather, trying to look like I was listening to what I'm sure this guy thought was an absolutely riveting presentation on boating safety. Or was it charcoal lighting techniques? Hmm, maybe it was just to wear more sunscreen. Can't recall, to be honest. I was just sitting there because, well, I was told to be there. Mandatory formation. Don't be late. Yada, yada, yada.

Sound familiar? How many times do we come together to hear the same old message, again and again? Don't play with fire. Don't run with scissors. Wear your ear and eye protection. Avoid wearing floral shirts around bee hives. Sometimes it appears that we talk so much about safety that somehow the message gets lost in translation.

So why do they address these seemingly "common sense" areas? Don't they know they're insulting my intelligence?

Well, let me give you just a quick thought to ponder for a moment. In my experience, I have seen, heard or read about some pretty bizarre things that make you realize just how uncommon "common sense" really is. These incidents fill up volumes of safety magazines, blogs, internet video sites and TV shows. Some of the best incidents are nominated for the coveted "Darwin Award," presented for the best examples of diving into the shallow end of the gene pool.

For example, many Americans think that drinking large quantities of beer makes for a better boating experience. Yet, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were nearly 700 fatalities in 2005 for a rate of about 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered boats. Nearly 70 percent drowned. Around 87 percent were not wearing any personal flotation devices. And alcohol was found to be a contributing factor in almost 25 percent of all boating deaths that year.

How about those backyard grill hounds who think that gasoline is a great way to "make fire bigger?" The National Fire Protection Association reported in 2001 that gas-fueled grills caused approximately 3,200 outdoor fires and set fire to nearly 600 homes -- leading to a direct property loss of around $19 million. Hmm...maybe watching that single hot dog go up in a "grand illumination" may not be worth the cost.

However, the price for not thinking things through is more than that paid for in dollars. Every member of our Air Force family is precious. All contribute to our mission. All are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. Our Wingmen. A preventable loss of any Airmen would not only be a sad tragedy, but a cut in our nation's combat capability.

So let's face it. As painful as it sometimes seems, we really do need to be occasionally reminded about those things NOT to do. Even if the message is (obviously) directed only at the guy or gal sitting next to you.

Yeah, you know the one. He's sitting there with that future "hey, look at me" expression on his face -- the one lacking that uncommon "common sense." He is destined to be the one to stand up at some future safety meeting and tell everyone else why they shouldn't do what he did and how lucky he was to survive. "Boy, I'll never do that again!"

You should be so lucky to get that second chance.