Ariz. dragway increases EMS with trainings, hospital partnership

Carondelet St. Joseph's Hospital will serve as the Tuscon Dragway's "base hospital" and will provide medical direction to EMS until advanced services arrive


Caitlin Schmidt
The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Tucson Dragway has updated and upgraded its emergency medical services for drivers, crew members and spectators, with ongoing training and a recent partnership with Carondelet St. Joseph's Hospital.

St. Joseph's signed on last week on to serve as the track's "base hospital," and will provide medical direction to the track's EMS and rescue team until advanced services arrive.

Carondelet's Base Hospital Program is one of the longest servicing base hospital programs in Southern Arizona and has been a leader in emergency medical services at the local and state levels, said EMS Liaison and Pre-Hospital Manager Bruce Whitney.

The announcement comes on the heels of ongoing cross-training efforts with Corona de Tucson Fire Department and other local agencies, said track manager Matt DeYoung. Racing continues at the track this weekend, with Friday Night Drags scheduled for Friday and the Summit Series Team Race on Saturday.

"We try our hardest to provide the safest and best-prepped track as possible," DeYoung said, acknowledging that racing is a dangerous sport and problems can occur on and off the track. "We want to be prepared for their worst days with our best days."

Last week, the dragway hosted a LifeLine emergency landing zone training course for its EMS and rescue crew, as well as Corona de Tucson and Elephant Head fire departments, American Medical Response of Southern Arizona and J3 Contracting. Later this month, they'll host an active training class with Corona de Tucson, where they'll practice a full extrication of a patient trapped in a vehicle.

"It's one thing to go through a full training by reading books and watching videos, but it's another thing to physically do it," DeYoung said.

Corona de Tucson fire chief Simon Davis said he's happy to work with the dragway in this capacity, and help raise the bar on track safety and training for its employees.

"This ensures that the highest level of preparedness is in place for fans and racers at the upcoming events," he said.

In addition to cross trainings, Corona de Tucson also takes a preventative and hands-on approach. If a unique vehicle comes to town to race, the department will check out the car prior to the competition. That, firefighters know how to respond in case there's a wreck.

The dragway also works closely with AMR ambulance when it comes to patient transport and ongoing training. AMR and Corona de Tucson employees know the layout of the track and have maps on their trucks so they can quickly navigate the scene in case of an emergency.

"A system is in place," DeYoung said. "In an emergency like that, the 30 seconds of the truck being lost in the pits is 30 seconds that matter."

In addition to its partnerships with Corona de Tucson and AMR, the dragway also works closely with Arizona LifeLine. DeYoung said the air medical transport company has been "amazing" to the track, with the helicopter often stationing itself at the track's helipad during big events.

"Over the years, Tucson Dragway has remained dedicated to driver and spectator safety," said Arizona LifeLine's Greg Featherston. "The Track has always been committed to collaborative training with air and ground providers to keep our skills sharp in this unique and thrilling environment."

DeYoung said the track will continue its efforts to evolve its EMS and rescue team's response efforts.

"We have a great team, and now we have additional great teams training with us," DeYoung said. "I don't know how many tracks in the country have a program this comprehensive."

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at 573-4191 or cschmidt@tucson.com. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt

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(c)2021 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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