Last week Andrew Cliffe gave readers of this blog an overview of marshalling in his appropriately entitled article “So, you wanna be a marshal?” This week Racing Exposure gives you the inside story of the commitment and dedication of those in orange overalls through an interview with the crew chief of the BRSCC North Western Centre’s Rescue Unit – Simon Morrell.
At the scene of an incident Simon has overall responsibility both for the safety of his team and providing any casualties with the best possible care. This is done in accordance to a well rehearsed, clearly defined set of procedures which cover a wide range of tasks that out on public roads would be undertaken by ambulance and fire-and-rescue personnel. “The key point is to remain calm and deal with the situation objectively,” explains Morrell, “you’ll never see us running round in a panic.”
While marshalling enables enthusiasts to get closer to the sport they love by performing a wide range of disciplines that accommodate all levels of ability and experience, the crew of the Rescue Unit can literally have a Life and Death role to play. This may be hugely rewarding and highly demanding at the same time.
“When I first started on the Rescue Unit,” Simon told us, “Getting called-out used to be quite stressful. It was both exciting and frightening at the same time. Now, I see it as a signal for us to stop telling jokes and to get out there to do a job. We often have no idea of the size or seriousness of an incident until we get there. Race control always passes additional information to us if they have it but usually we are only given a location to attend.”
Regardless of the how long people have been on the Unit there is still a degree of apprehension when an accident has to be dealt with. Morrell says “We all endure different amounts of pressure. Our driver has to choose the right moment to join a live circuit and transport us all safely at speed to the crash scene within 90 seconds of leaving our standby location. The crew chief is responsible for the welfare of all persons at the scene and has to work with our Doctor or Paramedic to determine the best way to treat (and sometimes extricate) the injured. Our medical assistant may be under pressure to assist in providing life saving intervention… and we all know that a difficult scene may be played out in full view of an audience of spectators and marshals.
“Thankfully, we find that most ‘shouts’ require nothing more than a check on a driver’s condition but we have been called out to multiple vehicle shunts as well as incidents involving fire, injury, entrapments and even a helicopter that executed an emergency landing in a field adjacent to Oulton Park.” (The latter episode occurred when a pilot got into difficulty when flying over the Cheshire track while a British Formula 3 meeting was taking place).
The crew members have to spend many hours learning the latest rescue techniques and practising with all the technology that may have to be used. This is done both on the job and in classroom environments. For many this takes place in their own time outside of their normal working life.
While the vehicle itself – a Mercedes Sprinter 416 – is funded by the BRSCC, the team that mans it worked together to add the graphics, lights and sirens which converted the standard van into a pukka Rescue Unit. Sponsorship is always required to enable the most sophisticated equipment to be purchased.
Having to manage demanding scenarios and the many hours of education is all worthwhile due to the tremendous pride which is felt when the aftermath of a serious crash has successfully been dealt with. “We are volunteers who are doing a professional job,” points out Simon. “We provide a service that would normally be provided by the statutory emergency services. It is very satisfying to know that we have spent the day doing something worthwhile. It justifies all those cold afternoons in the off season when we do our training.”