Consult with the experts to see if there are new designs that might be more efficient or cost effective for your type of racing. At year's end, remove and inspect all of the components of your fire control system. Make sure the nozzles are clear and the tubing is not crushed or bent. Have the bottle inspected by the manufacturer and refilled if necessary.

Safety Apparel
What will allow you to survive a fire is the clothing you wear. Each racing suit, glove, and shoe has a fire rating. That's the measure of how long you can go before you get burned. In a best case event, the car catches fire and you exit in 10 seconds or less. Good for you. But wait, there are other circumstances that may extend the time it takes to exit the car that you might not have thought of.

Here are some mitigating circumstances that might occur to delay your exit of the car when it's engulfed in flames:
1) loss of sight, from smoke and/or flames, which is needed to find the window-net latch, belt latch, and so on,
2) the driver's side of the car is against the wall or other cars necessitating exit out the other side of the car,
3) the car is upside down,
4) you forget to unhook the radio cord, air hose to the helmet, your head and neck support, and so on,
5) you're stunned from a high impact with the wall or other cars and must regain your awareness, the worst case being knocked out.

The problems that can arise will add seconds to the time it takes to exit the car. The best case time of 10 seconds or less now turns into 30 seconds or a full minute. Do this exercise; sit and look at your stopwatch and imagine you're in a burning race car and get the feel for how long 10 or 30 or 60 seconds is. I just did that here at my desk and I can tell you, a minute is an eternity. Only the best-rated suits will protect you for that period of time.

What greatly increases the protection time is fire-rated underwear. The Nomex brands really help and the Carbon X or similar designs are incredible. An SFI rating becomes up to twice as effective with proper underwear. All of this may add up to a higher cost or less comfort in hot weather, but imagine for a second the alternatives. You could end up lying in a burn ward for upwards of several months with the loss of income for your family, and permanent disfigurement. Gee, decisions, decisions.

Track Design
The conditions at your track can have a profound effect on the safety level for not only the drivers and crews, but spectators as well. We need to be concerned about how our local track prepares for problems. It's your responsibility to evaluate your racetrack for safety and make known any concerns to the owner.

Every track must have emergency personnel for trauma, fire fighting, and extraction. An ambulance with trained medical technicians is needed and a dedicated fire truck should be on hand. If you have to wait on an ambulance or fire truck to be dispatched to the track from the community, especially in rural areas, you can bet you'll be in a world of hurt if you're seriously injured with internal injuries and/or burns. Time is of the essence in an emergency and safety personnel should be at the track, not at the coffee shop down the road.

The design of the facility can be improved with just a little forethought. The ends of concrete walls or steel guardrails must be protected. Large, used commercial tires offer a lot of protection from impact. Plastic barrels filled with sand or water also provide impact protection. Dirt berms and restraining barriers that will contain the cars and prevent entry into the pit area also help to prevent injury to bystanders.

It might be a good idea to form a safety committee at your track. It can be composed of a combination of track officials and race team members. Working together, you can reduce any safety problems before they arise. It's in all of our interest to race as safely as possible.

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