Friday, March 30, 2007

The Dark Corner's of a Race Director's Brain

A Look at Safety

Let's talk about the big issue of safety. While learning, and even borrowing, from previous races and other race directors might be a good thing, it's nothing but trouble when you're talking about the safety of your racers and staff. This week, we're going to explore three places where proper precautions can make or break a race.

Ropes courses usually draw the most scrutiny, but they're probably one of the safer disciplines in adventure racing when done properly. Ropes are typically the only place in a course where outside help is used to assure correct procedures and safety. The one big question is why and when should experts be hired. Most of us can rig ropes and follow good practices to assure safety. We look at the aerial rescue possibility: If you think you're going to need one, hire an expert . We think of it this way: The best way to save someone from drowning is by throwing them a life line, and anyone can do that. But, if you have to enter the water to save a victim, the risk for the victim and the rescuer increases greatly and should only be done by trained personnel. The same applies with rope courses.

Water is where the majority of the most serious accidents have occurred in adventure racing. The risk of drowning and hypothermia are very real. A typical piece of safety equipment is the strobe, which can really speed rescue efforts in a large body of water. If you tip at night in a lake which can encompass hundreds or thousands of acres a dangerous situation occurs. You may be miles from shore and no one will know that you have tipped. The proper strobe is important to preventing disaster. The strobe should be rated for at least two miles of visibility, flash 360 degrees, be water-proof and ideally float with the strobe upright. If only head lamps and glow sticks were required, the search area increases a minimum of 10 times assuming the head lamp or glow stick can be seen from all direction.

The third, and probably one of the most over-looked area for safety concern is the handle-bar mounted bike light. We require front lights for the same reason the center brake light became standard on cars. Studies showed the center brake light on a car improved response time and decreased rear end collisions. The same is true in the front bike light case. Say you only have a light on your helmet, you're on the side of the road looking back or you're tired and have your head down. Your standard driver moving at 50 mph on the county road might not see you. You will want every advantage possible to improve his response time for identifying you.

These are just three examples. The key is to step back and think carefully about simple steps that you can follow to improve the safety of your race.

Check back next Thursday for advice from Shawn Dietrich. More from us in two weeks.

Jerry Lyons and Dave Kauffman
Planet Adventure

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