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Discussion: Safety considerations for GPS events

in: Orienteering; General

Dec 29, 2020 8:45 AM # 
Now that self-serve GPS events are becoming more common, I'm wondering what other clubs are doing in regards to participant safety? The OUSA insurance covers these events, but the insurance carrier suggests we should have a safety plan. I'm guessing most clubs are having participants sign a waiver and warning of any potential hazards in the course notes, but is there anything more that could be done? It's probably not that critical for short events but my club (Nav-X) is planning on sending people out on 2 to 6 hour Score courses (using MapRunF).

Bill Cusworth
Nav-X Map Adventures
Northern California, USA
Dec 29, 2020 11:52 AM # 
MapRunF has a risk waiver on their Event Terms and Conditions page, which you should probably request all participants to sign.

As far as a safety plan goes, course setting should be responsible and avoid dangerous areas, and any such areas should be described in the event information.

Provide a safety bearing (xxx degrees to xxx major feature).

Advise participants to take water and emergency supplies, and dress appropriately for the anticipated weather conditions.

Provide emergency phone numbers (police, ambulance, fire, rescue).

My club is doing none of these - our MapRun events are all short courses in urban areas. But then here in the Covid-free capital of the world, we're able to run normal orienteering events.
Dec 30, 2020 5:28 AM # 
Pride cometh...
Dec 30, 2020 11:40 AM # 
As a past meet director, you can have all the signed waivers you wish. But the realities of our sport are that very few police, fire or white-shoe ambulance attendants will venture into untracked terrain to pull out a competitor with a broken leg.

It is really incumbent upon the meet director to pre-organize a search & rescue group from experienced club personnel, that can be assembled with specific instructions on how long to search and provided proper rescue and communication equipment if needed.

Unfortunately with all the other chores of meet organizing, those plans are seldom completed. And on the OUSA Checklist for Meet Organizers, providing for SAR is only one line of 57 on the list. There is a very extensive CROC safety plan from 2005 also on the OUSA site. But I wonder how many meet directors have even read it.
Dec 30, 2020 1:29 PM # 
Search and Rescue becomes a challenge to organize at the sort of event where you don't know who's going out in the woods or when they're going. The only way I can envision this getting kicked off is if a family member were to contact the club saying that someone went out to do a course and hasn't returned.

I'm somewhat curious about how often a rescue has been required at normal meets. Off the top of my head, I can think of a half-dozen or so in the 1500+ meets I've been involved with. (That's rescues, not searches with no rescue required.) But collecting anecdotes about that is a topic for a different thread.
Dec 30, 2020 7:28 PM # 
A first-timer broke her ankle at one of RMOC's meets many years ago at our Manitou Park map. None of the organizers knew until the first responders drove up (the injured person had called 911 -- fortunately, she had cell service). They had ATVs and trucks and they did indeed drive out to get her, along with our course setter to help them locate her.
Dec 30, 2020 8:52 PM # 
Please excuse this Luddites question. There are three timing/ control checking programs being used by orienteers on 'run on your own' courses in North America, right?
For each one the participants depend on an app/ program on their smartphone to check them in at each control, right?
So doesn't that mean they are carrying the device that can summon help if needed? And if they become incapacitated and can't summon help cannot their location be tracked by tracking the location of their cell phone?
At Florida events they used to forbid the JROTC participants from carrying their cell phones knowing that the 'knuckleheads' (their expression; not mine) would use the phone to communicate the location of controls to each other.
Now they have done a 180 and certainly urge the cadets to carry their phones 1) to live track via Livelox and to be able to communicate with their leader if lost, injured or have another serious problem. To use the phone for other than tracking does lead to DQ.
As an event organizer I find the participants carrying and using a cell phone has been a tremendous boon to end of event recovery efforts.
Dec 30, 2020 9:16 PM # 
Some JROTC cadets openly admit to texting each other for help on RMOC's courses. But those aren't the ones who are winning (they're usually struggling just to complete the course), so I personally don't get too agitated about it.

Some of RMOC's maps are remote enough that there isn't any cell service to call for help. UsynligO still works, though, because it only relies on GPS service (*if* you download the map & course ahead of time while you still have cell / data service -- which I found out the hard way). Maybe that's also the case for the other O-apps, but I have only used UsynligO.
Dec 30, 2020 9:26 PM # 
You can use some of these apps on your Garmin watch (if it's one of the supported models; most of the ones orienteers use are ... just not mine ...), and in that case, if one is using one's watch and not carrying their phone, they certainly couldn't make a phone call from the woods. Whether someone could track them anyway, I don't know. (I'm a bit of a Luddite myself.)
Dec 30, 2020 9:51 PM # 
Garmin watches (and their brethren) are only receiving GPS signals from the satellites. They aren't broadcasting any sort of signal (beyond bluetooth range) so you wouldn't be able to track anyone wearing one.
Dec 30, 2020 9:58 PM # 
Most of the courses I've done in the northeast this year had just control markers -- find 'em, and time yourself.
Dec 31, 2020 10:40 AM # 
Bill, just remind participants to tell someone where they are going and what time they expect to be back.
Dec 31, 2020 8:21 PM # 
I second gruver’s post. That’s the critical safety plan.
Dec 31, 2020 9:52 PM # 
We've included this language in the safety information for our more remote DIY events:

We recommend that you bring a buddy who will know if you finished safely. If you go alone, please make sure someone knows when to expect you home and has a copy of the map.
Jan 2, 2021 7:55 AM # 
Thanks for the replies. Nav-X has pretty much come up with the same conclusion-strongly encourage participants to have a personal safety plan - make sure someone knows where they are and when to expect them back. We are also going to suggest satellite messengers for our remote areas with no cell coverage. They are a bit pricey though so I don't expect too many will do it.

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