Following some thirty (30) self-paced online training modules hosted by NASCAR & IMSA Track Services this is the final, on-site module: Motorsport Safety Seminar at Watkins Glen International.
Why is this such a big deal?
Because, since I started marshaling in the US back in 2012, this was my first opportunity for some proper classroom training. I had gone through a very similar set of modules over a course of a few months in Singapore back in 2011, in preparation for the Singapore GP but as far as I knew nothing of this sort was available here in the states, and I was vocally critical of the lack of such training. Turns out I was wrong. RSI, WGI and NASCAR have been hosting this MSS event at Watkins Glen for the past twenty-seven (27) years.
I couldn’t be more wrong. To be fair I didn’t know where to look. People mentioned MSS to me as early as 2012 when I first volunteered with RSI at Watkins Glen, but I didn’t know what “MSS” meant. And frankly I was busy scheduling events to volunteer, so when the MSS was hosted I was elsewhere, being trackside flagging an event. Not this time. And I can say with some confidence that I will give this training priority in years to come because it really is important.
What did I learn from the MSS?
Much of the theory behind subjects covered in the actual seminar were already covered in the online training modules. However, some things were new, especially those presented by fellow volunteers with the RSI. My favorite were the videos that Jimmy Wheeler showed the room full of people while doing a mock Race Control call with Terry. Jim did an excellent job of capturing some real incidents over the past year (or possibly more) using his GoPro. And having those videos in this learning environment proved their worth because quite a few videos showed incidents that Wow’d the crowd. From simple spins to actual impacts. From sports cars to open wheelers. Incidents happen in all forms of racing. And its out job to deal with them. Seeing the video allows people to learn a lesson that they would only otherwise learn when being at that incident themselves. I believe in videos so much more than just telling stories and making people imagine an incident, because hardly ever are incidents just like what you picture in your head, whereas the video shows exactly what actually happens.
The presentation on OSHA compliance was an eye opener for me because it explained a lot of things. Many things that people badmouth WGI about, but when it comes to OSHA compliance the track has done an excellent job of doing the right thing. And I totally commend them for it. Most importantly the crucial role of Communication was repeated over and over again, and that to me was the most important part of the training.
Our training concluded with a thorough description of fire extinguisher capabilities, the types of fires and how to fight them (as well as knowing your limits, knowing when to back off, and importance of calling for help immediately before making the decision to fight the fire). The fire chief that made the presentation was perfectly clear in his message and engaging with the audience. I thought it was very valuable. But the hands on training was the highlight of my entire trip. I wrote a separate post about it, but I’ll say it again that after five years of marshaling it felt good pulling a pin on the bottle and spraying the fire because it felt quite different from what I thought it would feel like.
I want to take this opportunity again to thank Race Services, Inc., and Watkins Glen International for facilitating this training. And to NASCAR for providing training materials and props for us to learn from. I appreciate this training and can only wish it was offered to all marshals that volunteer around the US. Knowledge of how to do things properly wouldn’t hurt anyone. In fact it would save lives!