Safety crews, response and equipment.
During a NASCAR meeting at the Thunderdome, there are three safety crews stationed around the track. A single crew consists of three or four people trained in emergency response procedures and one vehicle. All of the safety marshals are trained in all aspects of the job to ensure everything can be done, no-one is specialised in any one area. As well as the track safety personnel, there is a unit from Victorian Fire and Rescue, fully equipped with Jaws of Life and other extraction tools. There are three ambulances on standby at the track during a large event and never less than one if anyone is using the track for racing or practice. There are two doctors waiting at the medical centre, which is a small but well equipped hospital under the media centre in the middle of the Thunderdome, at the end of the pit area. A water tanker is also on standby in the event of grassfires or any other water need. As well as the safety crews, there are corners observers on each corner, which report any incidents to race control.
Each safety vehicle carries the same items. These include 8 fire extinguishers, of various types, a circular saw and a sabre saw for cutting roll cages, extraction straps which can lift a driver vertically out of a damaged vehicle, brooms, Rice Hull ash, for absorbing oil and a shovel. Each of the vehicles has had 'push bars' attached to the front to move damaged vehicles off the bank, see right. It is necessary to push or pull the vehicles down from the bank once the driver has been stabilised in the car. Tow trucks and ambulances cannot operate on the steep slope.
The ambulances at the track were purchased from a standard ambulance service and are equipped the same way. They carry all the usual emergency equipment, oxygen, heart monitor, spine splints, splints for every part of the body and lots of sterile water. They carry much more sterile water than usual due to the high likelihood of burns. One person is able to operate the ambulance alone, but there is usually two. The ambulances are always running at the start of events. They are running for at least the first 3 laps of a NASCAR or AUSCAR meeting, and for the entire race if HQ Holdens are on the track. They are also running for an entire Top Fuel Drag meeting.
On the Thunderdome, a pace car is used in the event of an incident requiring a yellow caution light. The pace car is in full radio contact with race control at all times. The lead race car takes up position behind the pace car and all other vehicles follow. No passing is allowed under yellow. The pace car leads the racing cars around any incident on the track at a relatively low speed, or into pit lane if required. When the yellow caution lights on the track are operated, a large yellow light also operates on the drivers dash in every car. This was found to be necessary due to drivers not noticing the track yellow while concentrating so hard and affected by adrenaline.
Response times on the Thunderdome are very fast. A safety crew can get to any point on the track within about 15 seconds. The safety crews are dispatched by race control by radio. All safety teams are in constant radio communication. Use of codes is required when reporting on the state of a driver when the crew first reaches a damaged vehicle, due to the number of people listening in to the broadcasts. The higher the code, the more severe the injury, eg code 7 is serious and unconscious, code 9 is fatal.
If a helicopter is required for an air evacuation of an injured driver, it may land on the heli-pad next to the medical centre, if the driver has been brought in, or it can land anywhere on the track itself. If there is going to be a wait for a driver to be extracted from a car, all the cars are brought into pit lane behind the pace car where they have to wait. The cars being held may not receive any repairs or have any contact with their respective pits. A doctor in pit lane may use this time to conduct quick checks of drivers if they have been involved in a heavy impact but are still running. If the helicopter needs to land on the track, or if any car needs to be cut open, the cars are brought in. When a car must be cut open, it is essential that the rescue personnel know exactly what to cut. Every NASCAR and AUSCAR has exactly the same safety cage design as every other one of the same class. This ensures that there are no surprises when time is critical. If any vehicle needs towing away from a racing incident, the driver must be taken into the medical centre to be checked by a doctor, with no exceptions.
Every pit for every car in a NASCAR or AUSCAR event must have its own fire extinguisher and a bucket of Rice Hull ash. If a pit is found without a fire extinguisher, the car is black flagged and must wait in the pits until the extinguisher arrives. Rice Hull ash is widely used to absorb oil in motor sports. It absorbs the oil very quickly and completely, and can simply be swept off the racing surface, either by physically brushing it, or by the wind created by the passing cars. While the safety vehicles carry a large bucket of ash, in the event of a major engine failure, a large quantity of oil may be spread over a large section of track. If this happens, there is a similar vehicle to the safety vehicles that has an ash 'spreader' on the back which can be driven over the spill dumping the ash quickly.