The safety of the racers and volunteers participating in the Canal Run is of the utmost concern for Canal Run Committee. Each year, the committee has tried to improve the quality of the race including reviewing our safety protocols and how we get the word out.
A variety of stakeholders are involved in the safety planning of the Canal Run and together they form the Safety Committee. These include various law enforcement agencies, volunteer groups, racers, first responders, sponsors, local and state agencies and governments. Having a wide variety of stakeholders helps the committee get a sense of the overall event experience.
Next, the committee then tries to determine what hazards are present during the event. These include looking at historical incidents, problems at other races, and situations unique to the Canal Run. These hazards are compiled into a list and analyzed in terms of their probability of occurrence, their level of impact and number of people impacted by each hazard.
Protection from hazards is our first goal. We ask the question: “How can we protect stakeholders from the hazards we’ve identified?” The Canal Run has the participation of law enforcement from the City of Hancock, Houghton County, and the Michigan State Police to help protect racers and volunteers from the hazard of traffic along the race route and to direct traffic at high traffic areas. We also try to alert the public to the presence of the event through media, flyers in mailboxes along the race route, and post signs informing drivers that a race is in progress along M-203. We inform racers and volunteers of what procedures to follow when racing or helping with the event via the racer or volunteer information packet. This year, we are also obtaining decision support from the National Weather Service to help alert us to unsafe weather situations (severe weather, excessive heat/humidity).
Mitigation, or what can we do to reduce the impact of a hazard should it occur, is the next step in the planning process. Like protection, mitigation steps vary depending on the hazard, but in general: having a plan that stakeholders are familiar with, having the resources in place waiting before an incident occurs, and having backup plans should our initial plan be disrupted are all components of mitigation. Specifically, some of the steps for the Canal Run include having aid stations on the course with first responders and athletic trainers to help with medical incidents and having police available on the course to quickly respond to incidents.
The response to incidents is what most people think of when the think about safety planning. The response to incidents is typically designed around general categories of incidents (medical, violence, weather, etc.) avoiding a specific plan for every conceivable scenario. This having many specific plans would require a book that responders would need to look through to find exactly the right procedure to follow. Instead, we have several general plans that involve three basic steps: recognition of an emergency situation, alerting the race control, dispatching of responders (if needed), solving the incident (providing medical care, dealing with an individual, etc.) and simultaneous assessment of the situation to determine if the situation requires a delay or cancellation of the race. Additional resources are provided as required at the scene. Once resolved, the situation is documented and the race is returned to normal status if possible.
Communication is an important component of safety at various steps in the planning and execution of the Canal Run. Before the event, the hazards and response steps are communicated. During the event, communication between the assisting agencies, volunteers, and Canal Run committee members is equally important. Amateur radio operators at each aid station provide in-race communication. These operators keep the race control up-to-date with when the first racer from each race reaches each aid station, any incidents or injuries that happen and are reported, and when the sweeps reach each aid station. They also relay weather information for the weather Event Alert System flags indicators and any important information for the aid stations to pass on to racers about the course ahead (accidents for example).
Everyone- committee, racers, volunteers, police, and spectators all contribute to a safe event. If you see someone who needs help – please help them! If you can’t, or if you something that doesn’t seem quite right, let the nearest aid station know.
We hope you have an enjoyable and safe event.