Maybe you are organizing your first event with a handful of runners or maybe you have been at it for ages – with your event a highlight on the outdoor calendar. You have covered all the bases with good route marking, easy registration, tasty food and 5-star accommodation. Now, all that is left, is to hold thumbs and pray nothing goes wrong…

In the Disaster game – it is always one of learning from the past and unfortunately complacency is always out biggest enemy – if it has never happened, we don’t need to prepare for it. If hindsight has taught us anything it is –

You can get away with some things some times, but you can’t get away with everything all the time.

SO how do we go about mitigating risk & ensuring we have everything in place? Firstly, your best ally is speaking to other organizers and sharing information around what problems they have encountered – especially medical and the types of injuries, where on the route they were encountered and what were the mitigating factors. Second to this is to create a “Risk Assessment” which will help you identify the major risk and is often based on the statistical data you have from previous or similar events. In its simplest form it is a questionnaire that poses various questions to highlight risk area’s

Medical Team – is the medical staff on the event adequately prepared and do they have the ability to gain access to the patient? The assumption is that if there is an Ambulance or medic on sight – then we can tick that box and forget about it.

The reality is that the average medic (or Doctor) will not be fit enough to run kilometers along a trail to provide help. It is also unlikely that the participant will seriously injure themselves at the water station or at the finish line or somewhere that is easily accessible – in fact it is always the opposite. Even if medical help does arrive – we have the dilemma of getting the participant out and factoring in things like weather, terrain and resources available.

• Any Medical person working on an event needs to be registered with the HPCSA (Health Professions Council SA) with a valid license. This can be verified.
• Any person driving persons for the public (ex to / from event or Ambulance personnel) need to have a PDP (Public Driving Permit).
• To offer medical support to an event – the Medical Service provider needs to be registered as an Ambulance service in that province (ex Western Cape Health Dept). All Emergency vehicle & Ambulance should display a registration license in their window. This can be verified. This also includes any individuals in their private capacity– as they are offering medical services for financial gain.

Rescue Team – whenever there is no easy access to all parts of the trail with a regular vehicle (ex ambulance) – the emphasis needs to shifts to rescue. Consider vehicles that have the ground clearance and 4X4 capabilities and the ability to load a participant (lying flat) to escape the route. The rescue personnel also need to be fit enough and have the adequate training & equipment to access.

To perform MEDICAL rescue – the person needs to be qualified in the type of rescue he/she is performing. Ex to make use of ropes to access and lift a patient – one needs to be qualified as a High Angle Rope technician with relevant authority.

PERP (Project Emergency Response Plan) – this is a plan drawn up by the organizers that encompasses all aspects of how to deal with emergencies during the event.

MERP (Medical Emergency Response Plan) – this is drawn up by the Medical Coordinator in charge of said event and outlines how all medical emergencies are dealt with (incl emergency contact info, disaster team info, roles & responsibilities, etc).

Pre-Race Sign off’s – All external contractor should offer a “sign-off” of sorts that gives commitment that they are ready and able to offer the service promised. Example of this include the various check lists that should be done by Ambulance crew – checking their defibrillators, their oxygen levels and stock levels. An ECG print-out will be evidence that the machine was functioning before the race and in the event it fails will be your only proof otherwise. The rule is – if it isn’t on paper, it didn’t happen.

• Patient confidentiality agreement
• Smoking policies & Social Media – especially if you have sponsors.
• Team List – who are the medics and what are their qualifications.