JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
As spring draws nearer, the days get warmer and people begin to engage in more outdoor recreational activities. But as people start coming out from their houses to enjoy the warm weather, so too do the local animals and insects.
The outdoor activities enjoyed in the spring require caution and preparation to prevent accidents.
Spring brings more opportunities in the woods like hiking, long walks and camping. When participating in those activities, Staff Sgt. Adam Perry, 628 Air Base Wing Safety Office NCO in charge of education and training, said it’s crucial to plan ahead for worst case scenarios. Wearing over the ankle hiking boots can protect from sprains and always bring ample water and food. He also suggested people going on longer hikes should bring water filtering straws to use as a last resort if they get lost or run out of water.
While exploring the woodlands of the Lowcountry one must also be aware of the indigenous wildlife such as alligators and various kinds of snakes. The best thing to do if you encounter dangerous wildlife is to stay calm and vacate the area.
"The most common threats to people and their pets here are copperheads, rattlesnakes, and alligators,” said Tech. Sgt. Melynda Winter, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron NCO in charge of entomology and pest management. “It is common to see snakes sunning themselves in rock-lined ditches. Living here in Charleston we should also assume every lake, pond, or even water filled ditch may contain an alligator. An alligator who has never been fed by humans will still have a natural fear of us, and those are the ones we want around. Alligators that have been fed will become very aggressive, coming out of the water and even charging at someone thinking they have food.”
The pest management office is responsible for everything living other than pets and humans. While supporting the base’s mission and protecting infrastructure, their main priority is to safeguard the military and civilians working on JB Charleston and their families.
Pest management is responsible for animals who have become aggressive. Wild animals become aggressive after being fed by humans. Feeding wild animals could put other’s lives at risk because the animal will then begin to aggressively approach people looking for food. At that point, the animal is a danger and must be removed.
“When you feed a wild animal, or stray cat you are teaching them that humans are a food source and over time they will lose the natural fear they have of us,” said Winter. “When you feed a wild animal, you could be issuing them a death sentence. Once they get too close and become a health and safety threat, they must be removed. For the families living on base, know where your children are playing. Keep them out of the woods and ditches and make sure they know the dangers associated with snakes and alligators.”
If you work on base and wildlife is in a location inhabited by people and it presents a danger or possible mission interruption; keep an eye on it and call the 628th CE pest management customer service line at 963-2392.
“Never taunt or tease wildlife, especially alligators,” said Winter. “We must have a level of respect and understanding to coexist safely. Charleston is a beautiful area with an abundance of wildlife, I encourage everyone to stay safe and enjoy their time here.”
While trekking through the woods and exploring the wilderness, one can also be exposed to the harmful IVA and UVB rays of the sun. Sun exposure is a hazard for everyone any season. The sun presents a unique danger in the spring because days start cooler and get warmer.
Unlike winter when clothing can protect skin from the sun or summer when their skin is already exposed and sunblock is applied before leaving home, in the spring people tend to shed excess layers throughout the day making themselves vulnerable to sunburn. In addition to sunblock, hats with large visors for shade also help to prevent sunburns.
“Spring is one of the most dangerous times for sunburns,” said Perry. “Even though it starts to get warmer out, many people feel it isn’t warm enough to warrant sunblock, but that’s not the case. If you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time, covering skin which may be exposed with sunscreen will prevent a sunburn.”
Once people are protecting themselves from the sun, careful planning and safety equipment can help to keep them safe in outside leisure activities such as roller blading, hiking or riding bikes.
“Any person operating a self-propelled vehicle such as a scooter, roller blades or bicycle on base is required to wear a helmet,” said Perry. “South Carolina doesn’t require helmets but your head isn’t any safer when you leave the installation. Some people never consider how much something as simple as a bike helmet can benefit your health. However, wearing a helmet when falling off a bike can make the difference between having small injuries like scrapes and bruises or a major head injury.”
Whether you are enjoying an outdoor leisure activity such as biking or exploring the abundant Charleston wildlife, personnel and their families are encouraged to keep these safety tips in mind.