Staff Sgt. Dorian Lewis

Spotlight on You: Staff Sgt. Dorian Lewis

Break the ice before it breaks you

by: Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert | .
Misawa Air Base | .
published: January 28, 2017

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Whether traveling down the street to the Commissary or walking outside on the flight line, knowing what precautionary measures to take for Misawa’s snowy climate will help the team stay safe.

According to the 35th Operations Support Squadron weather flight, Misawa is considered the base with the highest snow accumulation in the Air Force.

“Practicing winter safety is very important,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Ellender, the 35th Fighter Wing occupational safety NCO in charge. “The severity of injuries is more serious because there are more dangerous factors that are present and people have less control over them than they would in the summertime.”

Ellender added everyone should consider the winter hazards they may come across throughout the day, such as snow-covered cars, their facility’s sidewalks or preparing their homes for the worst with emergency kits.

“The snow, ice and whiteout conditions are going to affect you while you’re driving,” Ellender said. “Depending on how bad the snow is, [even] if you can still see ahead of you, drive slower than you normally would. Just because it says 60 kph doesn’t mean you have to go 60 kph.”

He added if a driver needs their windshield wipers going their headlights should be on, along with activating their hazard lights while driving slowly. If there is no visibility then pulling over to the side of the road is advised.

“Blinkers are important because it helps alert the snow equipment personnel so they don’t hit you while they are clearing the roads,” he explained. “Make sure we are signaling ahead of time, not when we come to a stop.”

Along with turn signals, Ellender said clearing snow off an individual’s car, knowing how to stop and having a good distance between each vehicle are important for drivers’ safety and everyone around them.

“When clearing a car, everyone should clear the snow off the sides, windows, hood, license plates and most importantly, the roof,” Ellender said. “If the snow is still piled on the roof, all the heat from your vehicle goes up and melts the first layer, and when someone is driving and they press their brakes, the snow slides down their windshield and they can’t see in front of them. If it doesn’t come down on them, it could come down on other drivers on the road.”

Ellender said in order to stop appropriately, do not slam on the brakes in any situation. For manual cars, shift down and let your vehicle slow itself down, while gently applying the brakes.

He added stopping with two car length distances from the vehicle ahead will also prevent chain accidents because it allows distance to pull forward, avoiding a collisions with cars in front of the driver.

While car safety in the winter is notably important, there are other precautions members need to take.

When personnel reach their work centers, they should check around for dangerous hazards like icicles and slippery sidewalks.

“Stairways are very important when it comes to clearing,” explained Ellender. “They are the most likely to cause an accident if someone is carrying something or is not paying attention to their steps.”

As Misawa travels further into its winter months, sometimes weather can get the best of residents’ homes, leaving them without power.

“You should have at least a survival preparedness kit in your home and in your vehicle,” he said. “My family’s kit includes lots of foods that don’t require heating.”

Ellender said his preparedness kit also includes many older games like “Uno” or the “Game of Life” for his household to play together.

Although Team Misawa can’t control the weather, there is always a way to be prepared for it, and applying safety procedures for the winter will help prepare residents for a safer time here.

For more information on winter safety and preparedness, visit

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