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05-02-2007, 07:45 PM
I am the race director of a June race in Kansas City and we always have to worry about extreme heat and humity and lighting. Does anyone have a weather policy? How long do you wait after you see lightning? What if a race has already started and a lightning storm starts? At what temp do you change a race to a fun run?
Any suggestions would be welcome! We are looking to put together a weather policy this year and post it on the web site in advance of the event.
Hospital Hill Run
05-03-2007, 05:38 PM
Let me do some checking on the lightning question. For changing to a fun run many groups would consider doing that when the wet bulb globe (WBGT)temperature exceeds the American College of Sports Medicine's standard for "black" medical alert conditions. A WBGT thermometer (which gives a reading combining heat and humidity) can be purchased from the medical supply house for less than $100. Here are the ACSM guidelines:
Black Flag: Extreme risk. WBGT in excess of 82-degrees F. Event may be cancelled, shortened, or turned into a non competitive fun run (no times recorded). Prize money will not be awarded.
Red Flag: High risk. WBGT between 73 – 82 degrees F. Runners who are sensitive to heat or humidity should consider not participating. All competitors should reduce their pace by 45-50 seconds per mile.
Yellow: Moderate risk. WBGT between 63 – 72 degrees F. Runners should use caution as both conditions are likely to rise during the race. They should be able to recognize significant changes in physical condition that may indicate heat-related problems. (See next column.)
Green: Low risk. WBGT below 63 degrees F.
White: Risk of hypothermia. WBGT less than 50 degrees F. Wear multiple light layers to preserve body heat. Do not stand for an extended pe-riod in wet clothing.
05-03-2007, 11:25 PM
My first day as a race director, I endured a half hour lightening delay and two-and-a-half inches of rain over the course of six hours. Mother Nature did not welcome me into the race directing community with open arms. The positive outcome of this experience was that I learned several things about dealing with adverse conditions. They include:
1. Have a "Decision Box." You should define a "decision box" that sets boundaries for who is and is not involved in making the call regarding cancellation, delay, etc. I suggest the race director, the operations director, and the medical director. All public safety officials and operational directors should be informed in writing about the existence and identity of the decision box. The local office of the National Weather Service should be contacted in advance and asked to be available to provide information in the event of adverse conditions.
2. Have a consistent response. An event should never be half-canceled. In other words, if you elect to cancel the event while it is taking place, you should immediately shut down the finish line and disseminate the cancellation information through a communication plan. Shutting down only sections of the course can lead to very bad PR with the running community.
3. Pre-race Communication. Prior to the start of the race, it is helpful to have a pre-appointed time and medium for the decision box, operational directors and public safety officials to receive any final updates. At 30 minutes prior to start, we utilize a "bridge line." This is a phone number that serves as a conference call destination for dozens of people calling in via cell phone. We successfully used the bridge line on my first day to communicate a delay to the group. We even had the representative from the National Weather Service call in to brief the group.
4. Communication during the race. In the event of a cancellation, you need a communication strategy for ultimately notifying the spectators and participants. It is important to explain to your operational and public safety directors how the cancellation notice will filter down from the decision box through the various channels. It is best to have a graphical representation of this plan. It should spell out who contacts whom through these channels to ultimately reach every volunteer and participant.
5. Arrange an Inclement Weather Radio Station. Lean on your radio media partner to have one of their stations and radio personalities on call on race day to provide up-to-the-minute announcements to the general public as to how the event is addressing any adverse conditions. Inform your participants and volunteers in advance that this station is the Official Inclement Weather Station on race day. This will help disseminate the information widely.
I hope this is helpful!
05-04-2007, 08:47 AM
The general rules for Lightning Safety are as follows:
"if you can hear it clear it" - rationale is that thunder heard means the lightning is close enough to strike in the immediate area. This is different than lightning you can see in the distance (often on the horizon) but cannot hear the thunder.
The second rule is the 30:30 rule. If you see lightning and can hear the thunder within 30 seconds of the flash, you should clear the area for 30 minutes from the last thunder or lightning that is within 30 seconds of the flash.
The 30 minutes wait applies to the hear it clear it rule also.
Clearing the event means clearing competitors, volunteers, and spectators.
If you would like a copy of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Crisis Management Plan, email me at email@example.com and I will forward it to you.
It helps to role play these situations in your planning meetings so you think of all the possibilities.
Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
That's the title of an old song by the Clash, but here's my lightning war story.
We put on a summer cross country series every Tuesday night from June through August in SW CT. Last summer we had some brutally hot days, and shortened several races and even cancelled one.
On one such evening we decided to delay the start 30 minutes to let the temp. drop even a few degrees. About 15 minutes before the new start time the predicted cold front started to roll through; 5 min. later the thunder began to sound in the distance. We announced the race would be starting in 5 min, to try to beat the storm.
The runners started, and within 5 minutes the winds picked up and the temperature dropped about 15-20 degrees, followed not long after by rain, then thunder and lightning. At this point the runners were in the woods on trails, with no way to communicate any cancellation. We just crossed our fingers and prayed.
As the thunderstorm intensified, the runners began to finish. To make matters worse, the finish was in an open field near the highest point of the park. As they came in, we'd grab their pull tags and tell them to just keep running to their cars. When the last guy (who was pushing his 2 kids in a Baby Jogger) came through, we all sprinted to our cars, thankful no one had been killed.
The moral is that storms can come through much faster than predicted, and it's not good to gamble.
On another related note, has anyone used the lightning proximity detectors often used at golf courses? They're handheld devices, costing around $100, that indicate how far away the lightning is. In the past, I've always depended on the "count the seconds between flash and bang and divide by 5" to get the distance, but it seems like one of these might be more accurate.
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