Y.E.T.I. prepares Airmen and families to thrive in winter season

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Roxanne Belovarac
  • 319th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

The 319th Reconnaissance Wing Safety Office held its 8th annual Year End Training Initiative, known as the Y.E.T.I., to prepare newly arrived Airmen and families for the unique struggles of northern tier winters Oct. 6, 2023, here.

The safety and wellbeing of Airmen and their families is a top priority for the 319th RW, and safety concerns become paramount when paired with sub-zero temperatures, blizzards and icy roads.

“Being prepared for bad weather is always important for you and your family’s safety,” said Staff Sgt. Allison Whittle, occupational safety technician for the 319th RW. “The Y.E.T.I. is a great place to learn the basics on how to be safe, but people should always be learning more. Whether you’ve been here at Grand Forks for a day or for years, no one is ever truly prepared for what our next winter might be like.”

Members of the 319th RW Community Action Team also handed out key items comprising a winter car safety kit and reminded Airmen and their families that North Dakota winters are filled with many fun and unique activities like ice fishing, snow shoeing, curling and cross-country skiing.

The domains of resilience become increasingly important when Airmen and family members are faced with adversity, like inclement weather. Having a strong foundation to begin with will help the Grand Forks AFB community to thrive instead of just survive the hard times.

“If you fill your winter with an event you’re looking forward to every week, April will be here pretty quick,” said Denae Grove, prevention coordinator for the Integrated Resilience Office. “If you spend your winter looking forward to April, it might feel a ‘bit’ longer. There will be days you want to be bundled up in your house and that’s okay; but if the weather is nice get outside get some sun and build a snowman.”

The below list includes the top safety tips presented at the Y.E.T.I., but is not all-encompassing:

  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait for cold weather to arrive. Start gathering food, warm clothes and other needed items before it’s too late. Stockpile necessities so you don’t get caught off guard when a storm hits and avoid any non-essential travel when the National Weather Service has issued advisories.
  • Prepare your homes. Keep the snow and ice outside where it belongs by winterizing your house and checking your heating systems, as well as making sure you have working smoke detectors in each room and CO detectors to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
  • Drive slower. With winter comes slippery, icy, snow-covered roads. Prevent a crash before it happens and watch for hazards on the road that may be hard to see in inclement weather.
  • Don’t follow too closely. Stopping times are drastically impacted by snowy and icy roads. Give yourself enough time to safely stop in an emergency. Maintain at least five-to-seven car-lengths distance between your car and the one in front of you.
  • Build an emergency kit for your house and car. Be prepared for weather-related emergencies whether you are at home or on the road. Winter storms can impact emergency response, so having food, water, warm clothing, extra fuel and emergency equipment like a shovel and flare will help you hold out until emergency responders or snowplows can arrive.
  • Dress appropriately. When it’s cold and windy, make sure you’re wearing enough layers to keep the chill at bay. Layers allow you to better regulate your body heat, especially when engaging in physical activities. Make sure to add and remove layers as necessary, trapping moisture or sweat under base layers can make you lose body heat fast and lead to hypothermia quickly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or find additional resources. North Dakota and Minnesota Departments of Transportation have multiple online resources regarding safe winter travel. The mental health clinic also has references regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression brought about by changing seasons and reduced exposure to sunlight.

“Even with all the safety reminders we give out to people about winter safety, it’s always the really simple things that lead to mishaps,” said Whittle. “Slips, trips and falls make up most of the events that occupational safety sees in the winter, and most of the time, can end in pretty bad bodily injury too.”

Whittle went on to talk about how people should use caution, not just while they’re out on the road, but whenever they step outside with a reminder that not all dangers in winter can be seen.

In addition to Airmen needing to ensure their and their families’ personal safety, the safety of every Grand Forks AFB community member is at the forefront of the Wing command team’s minds.

“Last year we shut down a military installation, this base, nine times in the winter,” said Col. Timothy Monroe, Commander of the 319th RW. “When you shut down a federal military installation, the very next morning the Secretary of Defense gets briefed on it. When we close a military installation we do that for a couple of reasons, but first and foremost we do it for the safety of our Airmen because we can’t do our job if you are at risk when coming to, navigating on and leaving the base.”

Monroe stated he has a group of advisors to help him make an educated decision on whether or not to close the base, and stated further that he has a contract to his airmen with the following points:

- He will not take safety lightly when making the decision on whether to close the base or not due to inclement weather.

- He will seek the best advice to give him perspective to help make informed decision when it comes to his airmen’s safety.

- Lastly, he will communicate whether there is a base closure as quickly as he possibly can after the final decision has been made.

“If I have to post it at midnight, I’ll post it at midnight,” said Monroe. “Sometimes though, it’s going to be a little bit inconvenient because I may not have to best information to act off of until 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and that may mean the message might come a little late for some of you. I’m hopeful those are the only exceptions I have to make in my contract to you.”

Base closure updates can be found on the home page of www.grandforks.af.mil, on the AF Connect app, the 319th RW Facebook page www.facebook.com/grandforksairforcebase and Instagram www.instagram.com/grandfroksafb  and are sent as AdHoc notifications.

For more winter safety information reference the 319th RW Safety Office’s Cold Hard Facts