Fire can surprise the untrained. It can flare up at any time, so trained crews are always
It takes a special set of abilities to steer a race car around a track at high speed, pressed within dozens of others. The senses are heightened and the adrenaline is flowing rapidly throughout the body. Under perfect circumstances, this is stressful, but when those circumstances become less than perfect, it gets even more intense. The element of survival now enters the mix.
Also entering the mix is the track safety crew. They have been on alert from the start, knowing there will be no advance warning. The crew must be prepared to move immediately, never knowing what awaits them.
It certainly requires special skills to work on a safety crew, regardless of the type of racing. Weekly tracks need workers who are trained equally as those traveling with the series.
Finding quality safety workers can start with the local firefighters and emergency medical technicians who provide safety and comfort within the community. With a little training, they can adapt to the slightly different world of auto racing.
Safety crews have to address any incident at a racetrack. They cover the pit area and prov
Craig Clarke is the head of Florida-based Track Rescue, which provides safety services for all types of racing. Track Rescue has traveled with series and provided weekly safety operations.
"The amount of training we do with our workers depends upon their personal level of experience," Clarke says. "We try to locate people who are already certified as firefighters or EMTs. All of our people are cross-trained at the firefighter/EMT level or higher."
To get the safety worker familiar with the sport, Clarke provides a curriculum that deals with possible scenarios in racing. "A lot of what they will be doing is similar to what they're familiar with, but it's different enough that we want to make sure they understand the sport," Clarke continues. "For example, we'll talk about how the race cars are built and get them to understand the construction. Also, they'll be dealing with exotic fuels in some cases. They don't have the concerns about burning plastics like they would at a road accident. They also need to understand that these cars are more rigid. Race cars don't have crumple zones like street cars. By the nature of the sport, they will be facing different types of injuries. There are a lot of blunt-force and internal injuries in racing.
Crews go to work removing a driver from an on-track incident. These crews learned about th
"There's a lot of on-the-job training. The work involves a lot of common sense."
Because it is a specialized field, it's important to keep people once they are trained. The ones who do it don't do it to get rich. "They enjoy racing and want to be a part of it," says Clarke. "They don't mind that it is a thankless job. They understand that going into it. You have to be prepared to deal with the emotions that come about when the situation doesn't go the way someone had hoped. The drivers will take it out on the safety crew. We understand that-even if it does make the job more difficult. A few moments ago, they were in the heat of the battle. Now, they're disappointed, and they could be hurt and maybe not aware of it. You don't feel the pain until the adrenaline subsides in some cases. The promoter wants to keep the show moving, so he's trying to hurry you along. You have to do the job in the safest manner, and it may not be the quickest in the eyes of everyone else.
"We're the first ones in and the last ones to leave. It takes a special person to do that."