Safety is our number one priority at our events, and we want you to know how we do our very best to protect our young athletes on race day. Here are some of the ways we can all work to make sure your child’s experience is a safe one.
As a parent of two small children, I know that anything can happen. Turn away for one second and someone’s forehead hit the coffee table, or tripped over a sandal and scraped a knee, or somehow fell UP the stairs and got a bruise. It’s inevitable, and although we want to protect our kids from every possible injury, you have to draw a line somewhere.
However, as a race director, safety is my number one concern when hosting kids events. With anywhere from 500 to more than 1,000 kids at an event, it takes a monumental effort to ensure that kids are protected. The purpose of this post is to shine a light to parents on the ways we work to keep your children safe on race day, and hope that you will support and assist us in those efforts.
Swim Course Safety
Parents play a huge role in the safety of their kids in the swim by putting down the appropriate swim confidence level in registration. By selecting beginning, intermediate, or advanced, you help us know how to separate our swim groups, and which kids may need assistance. This is also a big reason we do not allow personal flotation devices, such as water wings, life jackets, or floating seats. Kids should have the knowledge of how to stay afloat in the water regardless of a flotation device. We also have lifeguards placed strategically in our pools that can immediately offer assistance if needed.
Bike Course Safety
Our bike courses are held on sidewalk, trail, or neighborhood roads whenever possible. Though there are two small stretches of “city-style” roads in our two triathlons, the vast majority are on streets where speeds are 25 or less. We also have volunteers at each intersection and corner, as well as cones and signage to direct our athletes safely. Finally, we have police stationed at the most critical intersections to alert drivers of the event. Before each event, we also do a door-to-door neighborhood notification so homeowners are aware of the race and that they should not drive on the roads affected by the course that morning.
Parents, you can help us in this effort by teaching children to be aware of cars backing out of driveways when biking in your neighborhood. This is the one area where our volunteers are the first line of protection for our kids, and are always watching for any potential issues.
Parking Lot Safety
Parking lots are a natural source of stress and frustration on event days, so we use traffic barricades and cones to help mark the areas where kids will be riding or running. We also have parking volunteers monitoring and controlling vehicles in this area. Please help us on event days by remaining calm and patient and driving slowly through parking lots. We do our best to close off parking lots until the race has ended.
Emergency Medical Safety
We always work with local EMS to make sure an ambulance is on site or within two minutes. We also work with the great team at CPR Madison to staff paramedics at both our transition and finish areas. Finally, our bike course lead and course equipment lead are also EMTs. We have worked with CPR Madison to do annual CPR training for our area captains as well to ensure that everyone is well-versed in standard emergency medicine protocol.
General Safety Measures
One area that I am personally very passionate about is protecting children’s personal space and safety. To ensure our kids feel safe at all times during an event we encourage our volunteers to follow these rules (from our volunteer guide):
- We will make every effort to assign two volunteers to areas of an event course that are out of sight of spectators and/or where a participant could possibly be by themselves.
- If you are approached by a child who appears lost or a participant who does not want to continue the race, make every attempt to contact your area Captain or the Race Director via radio or cell phone so an announcement can be made and volunteers dispatched to bring the child to a central location. Do not take the child anywhere unless accompanied by another volunteer.
- Encouraging our participants through cheers and “high fives” is a fun and positive way to celebrate their accomplishment. It is not appropriate to touch a child in any other manner unless they are hurt and you are attempting to protect them until medical help arrives.
- Volunteers in the transition area may receive requests from participants for assistance. In this situation, clarify with the child exactly what help they need and provide only that assistance. For example:
- A child says “I can’t get my shirt on”. Your reply is “Do you need me to help you get your shirt on?”, if the child says yes, then as you are helping them, make sure the child understands exactly what you are doing to help them.
- If you see a child struggling, make sure you ask if they need help before providing any assistance.
Please note that these guidelines don’t guarantee that a child will remain injury-free, and all people should follow reasonable safety procedures, even if not listed here. It is our shared responsibility (parents, participants, and other spectators) to follow all safety requirements as spelled out in the disclaimer acknowledged upon registration. The best way to remain upright and injury-free is to listen to volunteers and race officials for instructions.