Darlington Raceway prepares for safety and possible emergencies during race

Darlington Raceway prepares for safety and possible emergencies during race

DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - With all the preparations leading up to the Bojangle's Southern 500 race at the Darlington Raceway, track officials' No. 1 goal is safety.

That goal extends to both drivers and fans.

Robert Garland, emergency services director, has been at Track Too Tough to Tame the past six years, overseeing all fire and EMS crews throughout the year.

Come Sunday, the one-man department throughout most of the year will grow exponentially to 250 personnel.

"So bringing everybody up to speed in a short amount of time is one of the biggest challenges I have personally," Garland said.

Emergency personnel from all over South Carolina, North Carolina and even firemen from the Daytona 500 come to Darlington to help out. Garland said it takes nine months out of the year to put it all together.

"You know anything that can happen on an everyday basis can happen here, but it happens much more frequently in a much smaller time space because we're all packed together with so many people," he said.

Garland described Race Day like a small city, which is why every single safety precaution needs to be followed.

"Every bolt, every pin, every strap, every pyramid is eyeball inspected to make sure it's right," he said.

The safety barrier walls are for the racers' protection, and they take months to inspect, according to Garland. Officials also spend that time making sure the stands are also secure.

Throughout Race Week, equipment like large tankers for water supply, fire pumpers and brush units arrive so it is all at the ready in case of an emergency.

"We also have fire carts, which is basically a converted golf cart made into a quick attack fire unit that has fire extinguishers, water extinguishers and firemen on it," Garland

All of this is in addition to making sure the Darlington community is protected as well.

"So we bring in as many people from outside as we can, but we all tie it together to work as one," Garland said.

Raceway officials expect the majority of Darlington County to be on their grounds at one time.

"I guess they can't put on a race without us," Garland said. "We love racing and we love our job. Everybody is a full-time fire and EMS. You've got to love it to do it, and that's just all there is to it."

There are aid stations in every stand for the fans during the Southern 500 race, and Garland said to always say something if you see something.

For extra safety, Garland said to look out for the black and yellow stickers around the track that show people how to send a text to get a crew dispatched right over in case of an emergency.

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