Safety plans in place for F1 race weekend at COTA

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by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 11, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 11 at 6:21 PM

ELROY, Texas -- A new ladder truck is one of the resources Travis County Fire Rescue will rely upon in an emergency during Formula 1 weekend in November.

Battalion Chief Adan Torres says it has pumping capabilities and carries the same tools and hoses as a fire engine "but it also has a 100-foot ladder [they] can use if there is ever a rescue or somebody trapped or something."

For example, Torres says the ladder could help them rescue people at the top of stands.

"Once we knew the size of the buildings and the complexity of the Circuit of the America's facility itself, we realized this is something we not only needed, but something we could use throughout the district," Torres said.

Torres says in planning for F1, they spoke with departments who've handled events like it to determine needs. Travis County Fire Rescue spoke with departments overseas, as well as those who handle the Texas Motor Speedway.

Torres said that one of their concerns was also the community surrounding Circuit of the Americas (COTA); how to get response units around there in the same amount of time if someone calls 911.

To better serve everyone, Travis County Fire Rescue is setting up several staging areas, including one at Popham Elementary on Proud Panda Drive. Torres says they're also close enough to quickly get responders back to Circuit of the Americas in an emergency.

He says they've been reassured by people who have handled these sorts of events that their plans are sufficient.

Torres' department will also assist Austin Travis County EMS for medical calls.

"If there's a large incident, either a number of folks dealing with the heat or slipping or falling because it might be wet, well assist them," Torres said.

Austin/Travis County EMS also beefed up its staff for that weekend to take care of the 150,000 attendees out at F1 Nov. 18. EMS will have trucks, motorcycles and medics in tents and on foot at COTA.

Staff from EMS and Travis County Fire Rescue have also been asked to participate with actual track rescue. Certain members have been trained on how to pull drivers from cars in the event of an accident.

STAR Flight can land at the track and transport anyone to area hospitals.

Torres himself will be at the command post on the track.

"I'll have three engines able to respond to either the tents, or grand stands, fire or smoke," he said.

Torres says one of the other battalions will have control of everything outside track.

"One of our largest concerns...are people going to be calling 911 from the parking lot or sitting in traffic outside of the track," Torres said. "So we wanted to make sure we had more than enough staffing and apparatus to take of everything no matter where they were physically."

COTA is also getting support from Kyle, Buda, Manchaca and the Oak Hill fire departments.

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