Marathon includes plans for emergencies

Race organizers are hoping for good weather and safety for this weekend's Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon.

But should they be unlucky, they are prepared for whatever may come dangerous weather, medical emergencies, a fire on the race route.

The system for dealing with medical emergencies has been revamped since last year, when the weather was warm and humid. An additional first-aid station has been added along the course, bringing the total to seven, including one at the finish line.

This year, runners with non-life-threatening conditions such as dehydration and cramping will be treated at those stations along the route, rather than at a hospital.

"We will have the ability to care for a non-life-threatening medical problem, and that possibly lets the person be treated and leave the treatment area without having to be transported to the hospital," said Dale Grimm, supervisor of Carle Arrow Ambulance. "That way we wouldn't tax our resources so much."

The first-aid stations will be manned by paramedics and nurses who have training in emergency nursing.

A dozen golf carts with paramedics or firefighters with emergency medical training will be moving with the runners along the race course, said Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department. Two four-wheel-drive vehicles will be available to transport anyone suffering a more serious medical problem and needing more care.

Particular attention will be paid to areas where runners had problems last year, Grimm said.

"We know where some of mile markers are where we saw more patients than other places," he said, noting they were in the latter miles of the marathon and half-marathon.

Each first-aid station will have a vehicle or building available for cooling runners who have overheated, Friedlein said.

"If we do call for excessive heat, we're not going to be opposed if people along the route want to bring out their hoses and turn them on mist for the runners to run through," he said.

But he asked they mist only, not spray runners with hoses. And no squirt guns, please.

"This is just a courtesy to help them cool off," Friedlein said. "It's not like the parade where we shoot them with water cannons."

A fire department will provide one misting vehicle and others may be used as well, if the forecast calls for hot weather, Friedlein said.

The plan for dealing with medical emergencies a collaborative effort of public safety officials, Arrow and Pro ambulance services, emergency system medical directors at Carle Foundation Hospital and Provena Covenant Medical Center, and race organizers has evolved since the first year of the marathon, based on the experiences of the organizers and emergency workers each year, Grimm said.

Saturday's races will go on, rain or shine. But severe weather a lightning storm or tornado will bring a halt to the event.

"If we have dangerous weather coming in that would force us to shut the race down, we'll notify officers along the course," Friedlein said. "They'll work the race route backwards and notify runners and traffic volunteers. They'll try to clear the route that way."

When race organizers sent information to homeowners along the route, reminding them about the race, they also asked if they would be willing to shelter runners in severe weather. If so, they should have posted a card with the marathon logo in a window, Friedlein said.

If the race were to be shut down, runners might be able to resume running on their own once the weather clears, he said, but they would have no official time.

If there is dangerous weather heading toward Champaign-Urbana early Saturday morning, it's possible the race start could be delayed to let the weather pass through the area, Friedlein said. A conference call between race organizers and public safety officials is scheduled for Friday night to review weather conditions and predictions for race day.

A helicopter will be monitoring the course and traffic, weather permitting. If there is an emergency, such as a traffic accident or fire, along the race course, officers on the course will coordinate with the race organizers to alter the course and reroute the runners away from the area and allow emergency vehicles in.

"It allows us to still try to keep the race going and it also allows us to get emergency services in there to handle the fire or other emergency," Friedlein said.

"We're learning from our past years' experiences on this and that's how we're adjusting to certain types of issues," he said.

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