Winter driving wb.jpg
For some, winter conjures thoughts of shoveling driveways and driving through lake-effect snow. Others may consider it a time to enjoy sledding, snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing. Fort Drum Command Safety Office and Army Community Service offer winter readiness classes that cover all of that and more. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Command Safety Office, Army Community Service help community members prepare for winter


Mike Strasser

Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 17, 2019) – It’s considered the North Country’s longest season, and it’s coming soon.

For some, winter conjures thoughts of shoveling driveways, driving through lake-effect snow, and finding the warmest pair of gloves ever invented. Others may consider it a time to enjoy winter recreation – sledding, skiing and snowshoeing.

The Fort Drum Command Safety Office and Army Community Service both offer winter readiness classes that cover all that and more.

John Drozd, with the Fort Drum Command Safety Office, reinforced the message of “See and Be Seen” during the Winter Driving Course on Oct. 15.

“Before you start driving, make sure you can see and be seen,” he said. “That means you clean off all the snow from your windows, so you can see where you’re going. And then clean off your lights, front and back, so you can be seen and people know you’re out there.”

Parts of New York experience lake-effect snow conditions, and many Fort Drum community members will experience that, particularly if they travel within the Tug Hill region.

“If we get a foot of snow here, you can bet that they got four feet or more in Tug Hill and Pulaski,” Drozd said. “They average about 300 inches of snow each winter – that’s about 25 feet. So you always want to know the conditions of where you are at, where you are going and everywhere in between.”

One easy way to check that is on the 511NY app and website, which can be used to plot driving routes and see all of the road conditions, traffic and incident alerts throughout New York state.

Drozd said that on-post road conditions and reporting status can be found on the Fort Drum website and app, or by calling (315) 772-DRUM (3786).

Fall is a good time to conduct preventive maintenance on vehicles, and this includes checking tires, fluid levels, lights, battery and brakes.

“You want to make sure that your heater and defroster both work, too,” Drozd said. “Your exhaust system – if you think you smell something, get that checked. You don’t want carbon monoxide coming back into your car.”

He also recommended switching to a winter weight oil and changing out the regular blue washer fluid with the orange winter variety.

Drozd showed more than a dozen items that should be included in a winter car kit. Some of the essentials include:

* snow brush and snow scraper;

* flashlight and extra batteries;

* small shovel;

* extra warm weather clothing and blanket;

* jumper cables;

* first aid kit.


A compact lock de-icer – roughly the size of a tube of lip gloss – is convenient to store in a winter jacket rather than a glove compartment and will quickly get the key functioning on the car door. Storing a bag of cat litter in the trunk can be useful as an abrasive material under the tires when a car is stuck in snow.

“And this is not an all-inclusive list,” he said. “You can’t pack enough.”

Drozd said that once it begins snowing, people should plan their schedules to leave earlier than normal for work or any excursion.

“It’s going to take longer for you to clear your vehicle of snow and ice, and the commute may take longer depending on road conditions and traffic,” he said.

Many accidents occur when people drive too fast for the road conditions, or they are distracted by another activity while driving. These are the motorists to steer clear of, and Drozd said that the safest way to do so is by maintaining a slower speed.

“Let them go,” he said. “The only person you have to worry about is you. If you’re not comfortable going 50, go 40. If 40 doesn’t feel right, go 30. If you really feel uncomfortable, pull off to the side of the road. Better to get there late than not at all.”

Drozd said that for those unaccustomed to winter driving, the best way to learn is with practice.

“When the first snow flies, find a parking lot where there’s absolutely nothing there,” he said. “Accelerate a little and see how your car handles. See if it starts to fishtail. Try the brakes, see how they react. Practice some general turns, maybe some sharp turns. Find out what your car is really doing for you.”

The Command Safety Office also offers a Snow Thrower Operation Course, scheduled 15 minutes after the Winter Driving Course. Both classes are held in Bldg. 432A on Lewis Avenue. Unit and organizations can arrange for safety courses by appointment only.

To register for either course, call (315) 772-3022 or 772-0310.

The Winter Preparation Class at ACS provides community members with safety tips and advice on how to winterize homes, vehicles and wardrobes.

“The main takeaway from our Winter Preparation Class is how to stay safe throughout the winter,” said Dan Johnson, with the Relocation Readiness Program. “We cover driving, home and holiday safety tips, and common cold-weather injuries. But we also want people to enjoy the winter and have fun. So we go through all the ways you can do that.”

Johnson said that it is important to dress not just for the weather, but for the activity. Layers should accommodate the body’s changing temperature while active.

“You’ll see new skiers with all these socks on, all these cold-weather layers underneath,” he said. “Then they take their jacket off outside because they’re so hot and you see steam coming off of them. Is that a good thing? No, because they can quickly get hypothermia.”

Johnson said that people are just as likely to get sunburned in the winter as they would during the summer.

“You actually can get sunburned faster in the winter, because the sun is hitting you twice,” he said. “You get it coming down on you and then you also get the reflection. I’m not saying you should wear sunscreen, but definitely keep your face covered if you’re outside for a long time.”

Johnson said that everyone gets rosy cheeks in the wintertime, but when exposed skins shows white patches, that is a sign of frostbite. He also recommended wearing sunglasses while driving or during outdoor activities to prevent snow blindness.

Capt. Wesley Snow, a pharmacist at Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic, said that he and his wife arrived at Fort Drum recently, and that they attended the class to learn about what to expect this winter.

“Safety is our main concern, but I was also very curious about driving tips and having an emergency kit in the car,” he said.

Having never experienced a Fort Drum winter before, Snow said that his neighbors showed him photos of their experience.

“You know, everything is what you make of it,” he said. “We’re very active, so we’re going to find outdoor activities that we can do together. I’ve never used a pair of snowshoes before, so that might be fun.”

The ACS Winter Preparation Class is open to Soldiers, Family Members and Department of the Army employees. Upcoming classes are scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 24, Nov. 7 and 21. To register, visit

The Relocation Readiness Program staff also provides this course directly to units throughout post, on request. Johnson said that these classes are tailored for Soldiers, with additional topics about operating military vehicles, cold-weather clothing and injuries.

For more information, call (315) 772-6566 or 772-6553.