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Patrolling at an event

National Mountain Bike Patrol groups often have the opportunity to assist at special events, such as races, festivals or large group rides. While everyday patrolling duties are often the bread and butter of patrol work, participating in events allows the group to reach out to the broader community. It is a great way to recruit new patrollers, fundraise, network and grow the public’s trust in the local patrol group.

This manual is designed to provide suggestions and a starting point for NMBP directors to use in coordinating their patrol’s activities at events. This document was adapted from the NMBP-WI Event Coordinator’s Manual.

Patroller Roles

Events Liaison – This patroller is in charge of all special events coordination for the NMBP group. While this person may not physically be present at every event, they are ultimately responsible to make sure patrol functions at events happen in a safe, professional manner. This role is important because having a dedicated planner allows the patrol to effectively map out its yearly schedule of patrolling and activities. The events liaison has a top-down view of the patrol group’s commitments and activities. Sometimes, in a smaller patrol group, the patrol director may act as events liaison.

Head Patroller – This is the patroller-in-charge at any specific event (race, ride, etc.) and is in charge of all on-site logistics of the patrol group. He/she is the main point of contact with the race/ride directors and personnel before, during, and after the actual event. The head patroller makes sure that all patrollers are properly prepared to carry out their duties by providing appropriate equipment, maps, food, water, etc.

Scheduling a Special Event

Event promoters and organizers are not always aware of the presence of a local National Mountain Bike Patrol group. If your patrol wants to become involved, you should initiate contact with the event’s staff and set up a meeting to explain to them what you have to offer. Often, they are happy to have more help and sometimes willing to contribute to a local volunteer group to support the cause. It is important to begin the conversation well in advance of the event so you are not forgotten in the chaotic weeks before the event. Usually, it is best to plan several months in advance so that the event staff can accommodate your presence and your patrollers can more easily commit to the event.

Once you have come to an agreement with the event promoter/organizer, it is best to ask that they to sign a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the responsibilities and requirements of the patrol and the event organizers during the event. This ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and expectations

Requirements for Special Event Coverage

In order for the patrol group to agree to cover a special event, there are several requirements that the organizer must agree to.

  1. Ambulance service. An ambulance must be on site, or the event organizers must have an on-call agreement with a local service (the name and phone number must be supplied to the patrol in advance). The patrol group does not provide any kind of advanced medical service. The group’s primary job at events is to get someone with basic medical training to a medical emergency site as quickly as possible in order to speed up the response of local, advanced medical personnel. Always turn over the patient to advanced care ASAP, or advise the patient to seek medical attention if they refuse assistance.
  2. Course marshals. Course marshals must be provided by the event organizer. Patrollers can act as marshals in an emergency, but this is not their primary function. Patrollers should be employed to ensure the safety of participants and spectators and cannot take responsibility for making sure the course is properly marked and participants follow the rules.

Pre-Event Planning

After the event liaison chooses a head patroller for a specific event, the head patroller should contact the event promoter/organizer as soon as possible. During that communication, the needs/requirements of having the patrol should be spelled out for the event director. These include:

- Organizational meetings prior to the event where the head patroller should be present.
- A detailed schedule of events for the day. Start times of all races, rides, events, meetings etc.
- Course maps, in advance if at all possible.
- Number and locations of Course Marshals.
- Radios. Ideally the event organizers can provide radios. Larger events and races held at ski areas will often provide ski patrol radios, which are linked to a repeater and provide much better long-distance reception.
- Local ambulance, hospital, and police information.

In addition to communicating with event organizers, the head patroller is in charge of recruiting patrollers to work the event. While not required, always try to recruit a couple of Patrollers with advanced medical training (First Responder, OEC, EMT, RN, MD, etc.). It is always desirable to have this type of highly trained personnel on-site, especially if the ambulance for the event is on-call rather than on-site.

Event Day

Course Scouting

The head patroller is responsible for making sure the course is scouted by at least two patrollers. This scouting must take place before the pre-race patrol meeting, as these scouts need to be present for that as well.  The scouts should be on the lookout for areas of the course where injuries might be more likely to occur.  They should also report on current course conditions, good places to station Patrol teams, and any other useful information.

Meetings

Be sure that either the head patroller or one of his/her patrollers (delegated by the EC) attends any meeting with the event personnel that the event organizers have asked you to attend.  Often, these will contain up-to-date information on schedule changes, course changes, etc.

Pre-event Patrol Meeting

The head patroller needs to schedule a meeting of all patrollers working the event at least one hour before the event starts. Things to be accomplished at the meeting:

- Sign in. All patrollers should sign the log, and list their medical certifications.

- Course/Schedule changes. Changes to the schedule or course supplied by the event organizers at their meeting. Make sure everyone has a copy of the course map and schedule of events.

- Course condition. Patrollers should have the opportunity to question the scouts about what they observed.

- Patrol teams. Patrollers should be paired into teams and assigned an area of the course to start patrolling (this will change during the day). Try to pair patrollers by experience levels (both in terms of patrolling and medical training) and personality types. Be flexible, especially with new patrollers.

- Patrol zones. Loops/areas on course to be covered. Break up the racecourse (if possible) into smaller loops, and assign patrol teams to these loops (or areas). Try to rotate teams around on the course (so teams don’t get bored), and try to pull teams off in shifts during the day to give them a break. If this is not possible, make sure that patrollers have enough food, water and supplies for the duration of the event.

Ideally, during the event, the head patroller will not be on the course but will stay in one area (preferably near the start/finish) to coordinate the activity of the field Patrol teams. This may seem tedious but makes for the most efficient way of coordinating switching patrol teams to new areas, rotating them off-course for a break, arranging for delivery of supplies, and intervening during emergency situations. Being near the start/finish area will facilitate communication with event organizers and officials. Also, try to get a radio from the race organizers, which the event personnel will be communicating on so the head patroller can monitor what is going on with the event staff.

Post Event Wrap Up

Be sure to communicate with the race organizers after the event is over. Many times, these folks will be quite busy and will not have much time. If there were any serious emergencies, it’s probably a good idea to speak with them in person. However, if the event went smoothly, without major problems, a short e-mail or phone call can be an effective way to debrief.

Conduct a post event debriefing with patrollers. If it was a long day, it’s probably best to keep the meeting efficient and to the point. Discuss how the day went. What went well? What needs to be improved? Remind them to fill out their logs and send any additional paperwork (incident forms) in to the events liaison or patrol director.

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