Holmatro Safety Team members average 20 years’ experience in their respective areas (firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, physicians, nurses) in municipalities and hospitals. Many are leaders in their departments, such as a fire chief, captains and lieutenants.
Still, it’s beneficial to review protocol and procedures annually and catch up after the holidays.
“The last race of the year everybody is pretty ready for a break, but by the time our training rolls around they’re champing at the bit to get back at it,” said Mike Yates, INDYCAR’s manager of track safety operations during an exercise at the Dallara facility in Speedway, Ind. “As our protocol evolves, this training updates everyone. That was especially true with the new car in 2012, and this year we are introducing a new way in which we approach the extrication of drivers.”
According to INDYCAR director of medical services Dr. Michael Olinger, a more comprehensive driver self-assessment will be utilized immediately following some on-track incidents in an effort to avoid using a backboard when deemed unnecessary. Additionally, spectators will likely see an ambulance on track more often to provide drivers a comfortable transport to the infield care center for further evaluation.
“It’s a little different than how (Holmatro Safety Team members) do it in their local fire departments,” said Olinger, a member of the Holmatro Safety Team since the inception of the IZOD IndyCar Series in 1996. “Getting away from backboards and spine immobilization is going nationwide with EMS services. The national association of EMS physicians has a physician paper out and feels strongly that there is way too much over-packaging of people. The downsides probably outweigh the benefits.
“We’re leading the way and a lot of people are moving toward it. I’d say in 10 years backboards will be used infrequently. The data points to packaging people unnecessarily.”
Of the 172 crashes reported in IZOD IndyCar Series races from 2006-12, drivers self-extricated themselves more than 160 times. Of the 31 injuries, nine were related to the spine. None required surgery and none were reported in 2012.
The Holmatro Safety Team, present at each INDYCAR event, is represented by four-person crews of professional firefighters and paramedics on each of three Chevrolet trucks. Two are safety vehicles with the latest Holmatro rescue equipment onboard, while the third is utilized for track clean-up. Additionally, there are two firemen/paramedics on pit lane to serve as incident command for local pit firemen and a dispatcher in Race Control.
Yates conducts daily meetings with local track safety personnel during a race weekend to address INDYCAR procedures and provide updates.
Dr. Olinger and an orthopedic surgeon also respond in a Honda command vehicle that is driven by former race car driver Gail Truess. Three nurses, including a liaison with the local medical facility, complement the group.