EVENT ALERT SYSTEM (EAS)

 

DRINKING MORE FLUID DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BODY COOLER.

It does help your body run its cooling system, but more water does not equate to cooler core body temperature.

The only way to cool yourself is to turn down the heat-creating mechanism: your activity.

WHEN IT STARTS TO HEAT UP, YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN.

 

What is the Event Alert System?

The Event Alert System, or EAS, is a method of quickly communicating to participants the potential for adverse weather conditions that can affect the race event. A series of colour codes is use to indicate the increasing severity of adverse conditions.

These adverse conditions are most usually related to heat stress. However, the system could also be used to warn of other potentially dangerous situations, such as cold, storms, tornados…or even non-weather situations like large accidents or fires or what-have-you. For the vast majority of applications, however, we’re talking about climate conditions related to heat stress.

Here is an example of the colour codes the Credit Union QCM will use. These are the internationally accepted and adopted colour codes and we’re too lazy to create our own colour code (like Chartreuse, Tangerine, Soft Ivory and that kind of purpley-green that you sometimes see when you squinch your eyes up really tight):


QCM EASAFramesmall.jpg

 

Who developed this system and who uses it?

This system, and the scientific measurements behind it, was originally developed by the United States military, as a guide to the level of heat stress soldiers might experience during training exercises in varying weather conditions. The system was adopted by the American College of Sport Medicine and now some marathon events are using it, such as Chicago, Des Moines and the Twin Cites, to name a few.

 

How is the heat stress calculated?

The heat stress is calculated using a special scientific instrument, designed for that purpose. There are versions that can be permanently mounted in a fixed position, such as the side of building, and there are portable, handheld versions. Our organization has purchased a portable version. The proper term for what is being measured is the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index, or WBGT Index. This index is expressed in either degrees of Celsius or degrees of Fahrenheit, depending on how you want your device to report.  As we’re a Canadian event, we prefer to work in Celsius. The WBGT Index is calculated using an accepted mathematical formula that takes into account the following variables:

  1. Ambient temperature (the usual “weatherman forecast” temperature)
  2. Relative humidity
  3. Solar radiation (not the “glow in the dark” kind, but rather the “sunshine on a black car hood” kind)
  4. The cooling effect of wind

The colour codes correspond to specific parameters of the WBGT Index, with each colour changing as the severity of the WBGT Index rises. The official documentation provided with the WBGT device that our organization purchased lists the differing levels as follows:

  • Green – low risk – a WBGT Index of less than or up to 29.3C (84.9F)
    • Sometimes an extra “White” code is used, which is even lower than Green, and it signifies a WBGT Index of less than or up to 26.6C (79.9F)
  • Yellow – moderate risk – a WBGT Index of between 29.4C and 31C (85F to 87.9F)
  • Red – high risk – a WBGT Index of between 31.1C and 32.1C (88F to 89.9F)
  • Black – extreme risk – a WBGT Index of more than 32.2C (90F)

QCM EASAFramesmall.jpg

 

Isn’t this Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index just the same as how hot my weatherman says it is outside?

In brief: no. Or, to be more broadminded: possibly, but not necessarily or even likely.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER that the WBGT Index MAY NOT be the same as the ambient temperature we’re all used to talking about around the water cooler

When we say: “How hot is it outside?” we typically mean: “What’s the ambient temperature?” However, the WBGT Index takes into account not only ambient temperature, but also relative humidity, solar radiation (the “sun on a black car hood” thing) and the cooling effect of any wind that might be occurring. And so the WBGT Index, as reported in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, can be quite a bit different from the standard ambient temperature.

For example, at 1:00 PM on Friday, September 9, 2011, we took a reading in the bright sunshine of our start/finish area. And, while the ambient temperature was reading 31.3C (88.34F), the WBGT Index – the number that we would use to pick the appropriate colour code – was barely breaking 26.5C. That WBGT Index measurement is still well within the “Green – low risk” zone, despite the ambient temperature being quite high. 

Several other measurements were taken in other Regina locations, with similar results. 

And, before you ask, yes, all measurements were taken in direct, un-shadowed sunlight and yes, the documentation provided with our WBGT Index unit was thoroughly read and we are quite confident we were using the device in the proper, recommended manner.

 

Given your example above, what would cause the WBGT Index reading to be so much lower than the hot ambient temperature?

Again, you have to remember that the WBGT Index reading is calculated on the combination of ambient temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation and the cooling effect of wind. It’s the interaction of ALL those variables that gives us the final WBGT Index reading. Now, we’re not scientists or meteorologists, but, having lived in Regina all (or most) of our lives, we can take a guess. Regina has a lot of wonderful things, but one thing we DON’T have a lot of is humidity. The stereotypical Saskatchewan winter phrase of: “But it’s a DRY cold!” can also apparently be applied to the summer, with: “But it’s a DRY heat!”

 

This is all fascinating.  No, really.  I’m on the edge of my seat with excitement.  But what does this all mean to me come race day?

What the Event Alert System means to you is this:

During race package pickup, a banner stand will be on display that illustrates the various colour codes and a brief explanation of what they all mean. A changeable panel on this banner stand will display the current heat stress colour code, as measured outside in the surrounding area. Since the race package pickup is not that far from our start/finish area, we can be relatively certain that the WBGT Index outside race package pickup will be pretty much in the ballpark as what the WBGT Index will be at the start/finish area. Measurements will be taken several times during each day of race package pickup, and the colour coded panel in the display will change (or not) depending on how much the WBGT Index readings change (or don’t).

QCM EAS bannerstandsmall.jpg

On race day, there will be banner stand sign placed near the start/finish line that indicates the current Event Alert code, as measured at the start/finish area. Again, readings will be taken several times an hour and the colour codes on the sign will change as the WBGT Index readings change. Several A-Frame signs will be placed in several locations around the course, which will also indicate the current EAS colour code. These signs will be placed not far from aid stations, as most participants tend to slow down near aid stations and are more likely to have a second to see the sign and read it. 

Members of Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) will “man” these on-course A-Frame signs. ARES members are connected via radio to the start/finish area. When a new WBGT Index measurement is taken – and the reading is such that a colour change is warranted – the ARES leader at the start/finish area will be informed and he, in turn, will contact the ARES personnel on the course to update the A-Frame signs. 

The signs will look like this:

QCM EASAFramesmall.jpg

The Credit Union Queen City Marathon will continue to operate as normal under the Green, Yellow or Red colour codes. And we hope those are the only colours of the rainbow we ever see, especially if we can keep things in the green with a little bit of yellow range.

HOWEVER…ONCE THE BLACK “EXTREME” COLOUR CODE IS REACHED…THE RACE WILL BE SHUT DOWN.  

The decision to shut down the race will be preceded by a brief consultation between the race director and the medical/EMS director and then it will be the responsibility of the race director to order the race to be shut down, and to communicate that order to the various department heads. 

If the black level is reached prior to the official start of the race, the race will not start and will be cancelled at that point.  

The decision of the race director will be final. Yes, even if it starts raining or snowing 15 minutes later and it becomes downright chilly.

 

Presuming a shut down order occurs while the race is already underway, here is what will happen:

  • The announcer at the start/finish line will announce that the race has been shut down due to dangerous heat conditions.
  • All Event Alert System signs on the course and at the start/finish line will be changed to the black colour code.
  • On-course ARES personnel, marshals, roving cyclists, lead cyclists and aid stations will be informed of the shut down so that they can then communicate that news to the passing participants.
  • ALL AID STATIONS WILL BE REQUESTED TO REMAIN OPEN for as long as their water and Gatorade supplies will allow, or until a roving cyclist can officially inform them that no participants are going to be passing their way anytime soon.
  • TIMING MATS AT THE FINISH LINE WILL BE TURNED OFF. NO TIMES WILL BE RECORDED AFTER THE SHUT DOWN ORDER IS GIVEN. PERIOD. END OF STORY. NO EXCEPTIONS.
    • This is done to prevent participants from thinking “Yeah, it’s probably dangerously hot – in fact, we've officially reached the internationally recognized standard of dangerously hot – but I’m invincible and I’m still going to try to push my luck and get my personal best time or my Boston time.”
    • We’re honestly very sorry and you can (and probably will) call us all the nasty names you like, but your safety is far more important than pushing yourself past the limits of good sense to get a finishing time. It’s not the Olympic finals; it’s a road race in Regina. Keep things in perspective.
    • If you were trying for a Boston time, we truly and sincerely empathize with your disappointment. However, chances are your performance was so slowed by the heat that you weren’t performing at your best. And it’s also quite medically probable that, if it’s hot enough to shut down the race, it’s also hot enough that you’re not thinking as clearly as you might normally do when you're not so stressed from the heat.
    • Do we sound hard-hearted and cruel about this? Probably. But our heart (hard or squishy) is in the right place. Keep reminding yourself that it’s a road race in Regina. It’s fun and all that, but it’s not worth risking your health. We’ll be here next year and we want you to be here next year, too.
  • EVERYONE WHO IS STILL OUT ON THE COURSE WILL RECEIVE THE FINISHER MEDAL APPROPRIATE TO HIS OR HER EVENT. In this “shut down” situation, participants DO NOT have to cross the finish line to “earn” their medal. Being in a race that had to shut down due to dangerous conditions more than “earns” you a medal, we think. Those who can come back to the finish line (via walking or getting a ride in a non-medical pickup vehicle) will be handed their medal near the finish line. Those who choose not to physically return to the finish line can send us an email following the race and their medal will be mailed to them in the following weeks.
  • FINISH LINE PHOTOGRAPHERS WILL NOT TAKE ANY MORE PHOTOS AT THE FINISH LINE. Again, this is to prevent someone from feeling like they have to push themselves to get that magical Kodak moment. It ain’t worth the risk, folks, and we don’t want you tempted to try. However, finish line photographers WILL be instructed to take as many post-race posed photos of participants with their medals as possible, IN THE RACE INFIELD AREA at special Credit Union QCM photo backdrops, which will be hung from the Information Tent. It will be on a first-come, first-clicked basis, line forms on the right, no shoving or buttinskis.

 

DRINKING MORE FLUID DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BODY COOLER.

It does help your body run its cooling system, but more water does not equate to cooler core body temperature.

The only way to cool yourself is to turn down the heat-creating mechanism: your activity.

WHEN IT STARTS TO HEAT UP, YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN.

 

We hope that this has helped explain the whole notion behind the Event Alert System. As volunteer race organizers, our primary goal each and every year is to have every single one of our participants make it to the finish line upright and smiling. Whether you made your Boston time or got a personal best or even had a bad day and missed your target time by 20 minutes, that’s all secondary to you being safe and able to brag about your medal and complain about your aching muscles the next day.

Thank you for helping us as we think of your safety.

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