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MOD 014: Mr. Murphy just took out a racer

When it comes to Mr. Murphy, you need to take emergency response planning very seriously when — not if — you need to save a racer’s life.

Merchants of Dirt Episode #14

When it comes to Mr. Murphy, you need to take emergency response planning very seriously when — not if — you need to save a racer’s life.

Key Take Away #1: Be Prepared:

You should think about how you can have medical skills on-site or nearby by doing the following:

Getting educated: The Red Cross provides first-aid and CPR certifications monthly.

Sometimes you can get this for the low cost of even free through your local Volunteer Fire Department.

Wilderness First Responder training is more advanced. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) provides nation-wide course on Wilderness First Response education.

Additionally, companies like Backcountry Lifeline (BCLL) are trying to change the way emergency response education is conducted by providing racers with medical training.

Designated Helpers: Employ or have first-aid volunteers at all your races, and make sure everyone knows who and where they are.

This could be volunteer Fire Department EMT’s, a staff member with First-Aid and CPR training, or a volunteer doctor, nurse, or athletic trainer.

Whoever they are, point them out, identify their purpose, and make it very obvious what they are there for.

Key Take Away #2: Be Vigilant

You should be thinking about where to place course marshals so that they can cover known danger areas, vantage points, and crossroads.

Course marshals are your rule keepers, your sentinels, and your actual first responders.

Pick them carefully, making sure they are prepared to assume the first responder role within your emergency response plan.

Don’t pick people that will not take this role seriously, will not pay attention, or will not stay where you put them.

Key Take Away #3: Be Communicating

You should be thinking about having network or system for communicating across distances, around terrain, and beyond obstacles.

Chances are, your course marshals are going to be the first to become aware of an incident.

They need a direct way to call for help, notify the race director, and get the emergency response initiated.

Make sure they are prepared to respond beyond just sounding the alarm.

Mobile phones are good for areas that have decent mobile services.

When they don’t work, walkie-talkies can become essential over long distances.

This is why you need to conduct live experiments with your communication of choice. Work out your communications plan prior to the race, not during, and test it to make sure it works.

Key Take Away #4: Be Sure

You should be thinking about how you can conduct finish line headcounts and course sweeps to account for everyone in your race.

Timing can be a very passive way of keeping a full count of who is still on the course, and who is not.

It could be your first indication that someone is missing.

Because timing is not always perfect, and racers that DNF (do not finish) often dip out without telling anyone they have left the course, you need to physically check the course with sweepers.

Sweepers help reduce the risk by being the eyes and ears of the race director.

Plus they assist in making sure the slowest racers make it back safely.

Do not ignore the value of sweepers in pairs or groups either.

If you have the numbers, two is always better than one when it comes to emergency response.

Bonus Tip

Always build an Emergency Response Plan that you will hopefully never have to use.

However, if you do have to use it, your plan could mean the difference between rescuing a racer or recovering a body.

Way back in Episode #6 I talked to you about not being the single point of failure!

If you don’t remember, this is a perfect time to remind you of the steps you need to take.

  • First — You need to go back to kindergarten and remember that sharing is good.
  • Second — Learn to let go of some of that control allow your staff — and maybe even some trusted volunteers — to make the call.
  • Third — Back them up when they do make that call.

Take this part of your planning very seriously and put some effort into getting it right.

It’s okay if you never use it.

But the time you spend doing this kind of planning will always be worth it if it ends up saving a life.

And now you know.

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