Weather becomes enemy in Korea as brutal winter begins
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Command safety officials have started the fight against a seasonal enemy that inflicts unnecessary injuries: cold weather.
If recent weeks are any indicator, it’s shaping up to be a brutal winter on the peninsula.
Korean Meteorological Agency officials said the thermometer has dropped lower this December than in the last 20 years due to a cold continental high-pressure front from Siberia. Heavy snows already have blanketed many parts of the peninsula.
Temperatures have dropped into the single digits this month, down from an average 26-degrees Fahrenheit, KMA officials said.
With the cold comes safety concerns, said Perry L. Owens, safety director at the U.S. Forces Korea/8th Army command safety office.
One method officials will use to educate troops is an 8th Army campaign that poses the question “Are you committed?” to keeping the command safe, he said.
Owens said the concept was created during the last safety meeting with 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell.
Cold-weather concerns will be a major part of that campaign, said Dave Johnson, of the safety office.
Johnson also proudly directs people to his office’s Web site as part of the battle to keep troops informed and safe.
The Web site provides a one-stop reference for safety concerns, including hot topics such as cold weather.
“We don’t want the guy to have to go searching for this stuff,” Johnson said.
“Leaders and soldiers should understand that prevention of cold injuries is vital to sustaining combat power,” the site reads. “In the cold environments, leaders must continually be aware of the condition of their soldiers and be especially alert for signs and symptoms of cold injuries. Prevention, early detection, and immediate evacuation are the leader initiatives through which cold injuries should be managed in the field.”
The Web site includes information on winter driving, wind chill charts, a link to the U.S. Army Center for Health Protection and Preventive Medicine, an individual safety card and USFK Pamphlet 385-3 — “A Systems Approach to Seasonal Safety.”
As troops head back to the field for winter maneuvers, Johnson stressed that responsibility starts at the bottom.
“The bottom line is leader awareness,” he said. “It starts with first-line supervisors understanding the risks and hazards.”
The concern isn’t only on-duty related; off-duty winter activities also present safety hazards, Johnson said.
Winter sports and driving aren’t the only hazards.
“People have a tendency not to pay as much attention when it’s cold,” he said relating a story of a pedestrian who stepped out into the street without checking for cars while all bundled up and tucked into winter clothing.
He said “slips, trips and falls are probably the most prevalent on- and off-duty personal injury.”
“It’s hard to make people understand” how dangerous a slip could be because they might find it humorous, Owens said. “It’s comical to talk about it … until it happens to you.”
Johnson stressed that personnel should dress for the weather, both at work and play.
“It’s too cold” for style, he said.