Wanna Flag? Part 4 - What to Do When You Get on Station
So it is your first day on a corner. You have ridden out to station in a van or pickup with the overflow from a Good Humor convention. There is a lot of positive, nervous energy of anticipation in the air. You have never heard so many wisecracks in your life! When you jump out someone yells, “Play safe”.
This is the most important bit of advice you will get all day. F&C is all about safety; safety for you, safety for your co-workers and safety for the drivers. So many people think that working on a corner is dangerous, and while racing is inherently risky for all, following some simple rules with proper safety equipment minimizes those risks. You are probably safer at the track than crossing a busy intersection for two simple reasons: at the track all the traffic is going the same way and someone is always watching your back. Never turn your back to traffic unless someone is looking out for you. It goes without saying that things happen quickly on a racetrack.
When you first arrive on station your corner captain will ask you to perform some basic setup tasks. First, stow your gear in a spot where you can get at it but it is not obstructing either the view or the ground in the working part of the station. Please tell your captain if you have any serious medical conditions (Diabetes) or allergies (bee sting) or show him your MedAlert bracelet. Don’t forget that your health is part of the safety equation. Dress appropriately for the conditions. Dress warmly if it is cold. Stay dry if it is raining. Cover up if it is hot and sunny and use sunscreen on exposed skin (don’t forget your lips). Drink lots of fluid to maintain hydration. If you are not peeing regularly you are behind on fluids. It is amazing how each year we have someone succumb to hypothermia or heat exhaustion. Both are preventable with proper planning.
Usually, the captain will have picked up the radio and headphones and tested them before leaving the paddock. If, for some reason, you have the phones, do a radio check to be sure that Control can hear your station. Flags, a station log book and fire bottles will have been left trackside by your hardworking equipment guru (Thanks Doug!). The flags go to the station where they are removed from the bag, unfurled and set up for use. Check immediately to be sure that you have the proper number of flags. If you are working the black flag station also check for a mechanical black flag (“meatball”), a checkered flag and the number board. Report any deficiencies immediately to control so you can get replacements before the first car is on track.
Your captain will tell you where to distribute the station’s fire bottles. The idea is to put them where you think you will need them so you can run to that spot, pick up the bottle on the way to the incident, and avoid having to carry a bottle all the way from the station. At least one bottle will stay at the station. You will learn that there are typical locations for the remaining fire bottles. They will be distributed up-track, down-track and maybe even across-track. Place each bottle far enough from the track that it will not be hit by a spinning car, but will be visible from the station. The top of a berm is a good spot. As you set out each bottle invert it several times to agitate the powder that may have settled to the bottom. Also check the gauge to insure that each bottle has an adequate charge and the safety pin is in place. Again, report any deficiencies to Control before the start of the session.
Your corner captain will set up a rotation for the various positions depending on how many workers are on your corner. The basic positions include communicator (the one with the phones), blue flag, yellow flag, safety (the one who is going to run to the incident), observer (another set of eyes to help the communicator get cars numbers, etc.) and outpost (either up-track, down-track or often across-track). Having so many workers on station is usually a luxury seen only at Pro events or the Runoffs. In most cases, there are only two workers on a given station, in which case the worker with the yellow flag is looking down-track and has the phones, and the worker with the blue flag is looking up-track and will respond to any incidents. The blue flagger’s main responsibility is the safety of the yellow flagger who has his/her back to traffic! Again, never turn your back to traffic unless someone is watching out for you. As we often say, your primary responsibility is for your own safety. Your secondary responsibility is for the safety of your co-workers. This way we are always ready to help the drivers when they need us.