By MC3 Diana Quinlan, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det Hawaii
[Editor’s Note: Seabees are a global force with changing environments – both ON and OFF duty – so while there is a vigilance that needs to be maintained while in homeport, it is equally as important to keep those same safe behaviors in mind while deployed. While this article is focused on summer safety in Hawaii, the content pertains to warm weather precautions for all locales.]
The summer months are fast approaching for most of the U.S., but in Hawaii summer is practically year-round. Sun, warm weather, beaches, mountains, volcanoes and tropical forests attract outdoors enthusiasts from all over the world. For Sailors visiting or living in Hawaii, it is especially important to maintain outdoor safety awareness.
Cmdr. Leo Murphy, Pacific Fleet safety officer, shared his advice about some of the dangers associated with summer-related recreational activities and how Sailors and their family members can avoid an unplanned hospital visit.
“First, it should be understood that most recreational activities have a variable degree of inherent risks,” said Murphy. “For example a family day at the beach may include sunburn, jellyfish stings, unexpected strong ocean currents and dehydration.
“Secondly, it should also be understood that recreation-related injuries are preventable,” he said. “Home and recreation-related injuries affect people of all ages and physical abilities, and account for about a third of all injury-related emergency department visits.”
The key to prevention is becoming aware of the risks beforehand and making risk management decisions to mitigate those risks. In the example mentioned above risk decisions should include the routine use of sunscreen applied regularly, searching for online jellyfish warnings, obeying beach warning signs for ocean currents, and taking plenty of water and providing beach shade. The best injury prevention tool is taking the time to seek out and conduct even the most basic research into the activity planned and then developing a risk prevention strategy before venturing out.
According to Murphy, one should plan carefully in advance. “All Navy Service members are required to perform risk management assessments prior to engaging in a high-risk recreational activity,” he added. “Examples may include, but are not limited to: skydiving; cliff diving; scuba diving; boating; motorcycle riding; and parasailing.
“Some activities become high risk based upon individual circumstances such as hiking in mountainous or remote areas; surfing; bike riding on motorways and snorkeling. A risk assessment is a process to identify and assess hazards,” Murphy said. “Identifying risks and establishing planned risk mitigating strategies will ensure recreational activities don’t end up including a cruise to the emergency room.”
Murphy also placed importance on knowing your limit and realizing that everyone has different skills levels depending on an activity or sport.
“Injuries often seem like an inevitable part of the game, but you can do some things to help prevent them,” said Murphy. “Make sure you have the proper skills and training before participating in any sport and remember to play at your level. Use the proper protective gear for the particular sport you are playing to lessen the chances of being injured.
“Minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft-tissue injury by warming up before starting and cooling down afterward to slowly bring down your heart rate and help fend off muscle soreness,” he said. “Like many good things, exercise can also be risky –especially if it’s been a while since you’ve worked up a sweat or if you have any health conditions that could increase your risk of injury, so it’s important to know how to keep yourself safe and avoid potential problems before they happen.”
Murphy added that common sense should always apply. “For outdoor recreation, no matter what kinds of activities you choose, you can limit the number of injuries that occur and have a good and safe time,” he said. “The key is to make an honest assessment of yours and your family’s ability and plan an activity accordingly. You need to know your limits, and stick with them. Understanding your limits and practicing risk management, with a good application of common sense, will go a long way to ensuring fun versus pain.”
Despite the great opportunities for activities and summer-related fun, Command Master Chief John P. Ullery, commander, Navy Region Hawaii, emphasized the importance of maintaining safety.
“Living in Hawaii we are fortunate to be able to participate in many outside activities year round from hiking, camping, numerous water sports and other events,” said CMC Ullery. “For those who enjoy hiking trips unseen dangers can occur. Trails become very slick when wet; stay on marked trails, a couple of steps off could be a couple hundred feet drop.”
“Wear proper footwear for water sport activities, obey posted signs and talk to the lifeguards,” Ullery added. “They may know something particular about that location.”