By: Ron Szczerba
Hagaman, NY – On Saturday morning January 27, the Teal Suits Safety Team went through training at the DKM Fabrications facility in Hagaman, NY. It was the fifth time that Terri Mohrman and her team have trained at the DKM facility. “Special thanks to Eric Mack and Dave Constantino at DKM for allowing us to come into their shop in order for us to go through our annual training session,” Mohrman said.
2024 will be the 41st year that Mohrman has served on the Safety Team at local speedways, and she appreciates every member of her team for the help that they provide. “We work together as a team and succeed or fail as a team,” she said. “It is very important that we all understand the environment that we are working in, to recognize the type of incident we are involved in, and to never turn your back on a race car or approach the car from the front or the rear. We are there to take care of our drivers, but our safety is important as well.”
OTHER TRAINING MOHRMAN GOES THROUGH TO BETTER HER SAFETY TEAM
Mohrman recently went through a five hour training course with the Med Star Dirt Track Rescue Team from South Dakota. That organization works with the World of Outlaw and High Limit Sprint Car organizations. “They showed four different fires during the training, the last one was John Scarborough’s fire at Fonda from many years ago,” Mohrman said. “Jay Masur was the instructor and told me that we were already doing everything that they were doing which was great to hear.”
Just last week she also went through SFI safety training with John Evans of ESI Safety Services. There were eight skill stations including emergency life saving measures, fire suppression, cutting helmets and chassis, and extraction to name a few. This wasn’t the first time that Terri has trained with the ESI Safety Team and Mr. Evans, and this year she was asked to become an even bigger part of their training.
“I was asked by Mr. Evans to become part of the training staff as well as work on the track safety team with the EFI organization,” she said. “That was very humbling and much appreciated. It is great to know that my Teal Suit Safety Team is up to date with the latest training techniques. I truly love what I do, bring on year #41! Let’s go racing!”
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Communicating with team members by radio is a key in getting to the scene safely in the event of an accident. Watching for other cars is key along with each team member knowing their roles and staying in them. For a quick assessment of the driver, you first ask them their name, then their age, and finally what position they started the race in.
“The driver needs to hear one voice,” Mohrman said. “When you’re hurt you’re afraid. Raising up their visor so the driver can get some air and allowing us to look into their eyes is an important first step to evaluate them initially.”
In the event of a rollover where the car lands on its roof, a driver normally just wants to get his car turned back over as soon as possible. “In the SFI training that I have taken they told me that it was confirmed with doctors from Indianapolis that rolling the car back over will not make the injury any worse if there is one,” Mohrman said.
When a racecar lands upside down after a wreck, it is important to have the driver brace themselves for when their belts are released. “If we are unable to turn the car over we instruct the driver to tuck their chin in, move their left shoulder underneath themselves, move to the right and out of the passenger side window opening,” Mohrman said.
Stabilizing the head is very important to prevent further injury to the head and neck. When the helmet is taken off it is important to lift the helmet straight up and off the head. “There is something new out called the Helmet Extractor Device,” Mohrman said. “It consists of a plastic bladder on top of the helmet with a bulb that you squeeze to help the helmet come off straight up. They are currently being used by Motocross drivers with Late Model and Sprint car drivers starting to use them as well.”
The HANS Device has been out for years, and it protects the drivers necks from injury. “Without the HANS device, it is possible that the nerves in the back of the head and neck could be injured by movement of the head either forward or backward depending on where the race car is hit,” Mohrman said.
Improvements in driver safety have also now become deterrents to the EMS crews and safety teams in a way. “The part of the seats that are around the neck make it hard for us to stabilize the drivers head in an accident,” Mohrman said. “But they are bolted on and can be taken off easy enough in the event of a driver having to be extracted from the race car through the roof.”
Other deterrents to the safety team include the HANS device along with the six different types of anchors to attach the HANS device to the helmet according to Mohrman. “I had everyone at the DKM training look at all six different anchors and learn how to unhook each and every one.”
“In the event of a fire, all firefighters at the scene should have a bottle in hand in case they need to fight a fire,” Mohrman said. “It is important to take the fire away from the driver and direct it towards the front or rear of the race car. If possible a drivers medical condition should also be known because certain types of fire suppression can cause respiratory problems.”
INTROCUCING THE RESCUE BOA
After seeing a video on the “Resue Boa,” Mohrman had an idea a couple of years ago to make her own version of the product which is used in England for rapid extractions. “I had an idea on how to make one and it consisted of a king size bed sheet and a nine-foot strap cut in half,” she said. “It was introduced to this area a couple of years ago, and it can be used in order to extract a driver without a lot of extra movement.”
First step before the “Rescue Boa” is used is to put a neck brace on the driver. The “Rescue Boa” is marked in the center with red tape and first goes around the neck brace, then twists and goes under the persons arms. Both sides of the strap, which ends up behind the neck, can be lifted while two other people lift underneath the persons legs. It works really well as during the safety training at DKM they used it on this writer to show everyone how it works.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RACE CARS
Not only do Terri and her Teal Suit Safety Team need to know safety procedures to protect the drivers, but they also need to know as much as possible about the different types of cars that they may be summoned to work on from Modifieds and Sportsman, to the full bodied Pro Stocks, Late Models, Street Stocks, Four Cylinders, Sprint Cars, and Slingshots.
“The Modifieds and Sportsman use zeuss buttons while the pro stocks use rivets on their bodies,” Mohrman said. “There are also the Sprint Cars and Slingshots which offer another challenge in the event of a fire as they both burn Methanol which burns clear and is hard to detect because of it while other types of cars run either racing fuel or pump gas that you can get at a local gas station.”
“Batteries project another different type of safety issue and should be shut off in the event of an accident just as the fuel shutoff should be. If the battery shutoff isn’t deactivated or a battery cable isn’t disconnected, there will be current coming up through the car in certain areas which poses another possible danger to everyone.”
Mohrman also feels as though it is important to let the fans know what was going on during the accident while the promoters need to understand the time taken by the Safety Team in the event of an accident.
“The racetrack employees and the fans need to practice self-control,” she said. “The emotions of the moment come out when an accident happens, and I can understand that. When we had to cut a part of the cage on Rocky Warner’s car last year at Fonda, we covered him up with a sheet to protect him from hot metal pieces falling on him and burning him which alarmed a lot of people.”
Mohrman asks that all drivers in very division at a racetrack get more involved in safety as well and realize what safety teams and measures are available to them at the racetrack.
DRIVER THOUGHTS ON THE TEAL SUITS SAFETY TEAM
Last year at the Fonda Speedway in Fonda, NY there were three serious wrecks involving three different drivers resulting in those three drivers receiving serious injuries. Below are the thoughts of those three drivers about their injuries, their recoveries, and how the “Teal Suits Safety Team” helped them after their accidents.
Rocky Warner was involved in a serious wreck on the frontstretch at Fonda where the front of another racecar came in through the passenger side window opening of his racecar. Warner’s helmet was damaged, and he suffered from two brain bleeds resulting in a few days stay in the hospital.
“Bonnie (Reuss) and Nick (Squires) were the two voices of the safety team that I heard the most after my wreck,” Warner said. “I really feel fortunate to have the Teal Suits Safety Team at our tracks. There aren’t many people that try to keep up with things like safety training. They handle things without panic, they are always there for us drivers, and I am super thankful for that.”
“I’ve been in a lot of accidents during my racing career,” Warner added. “I always felt invincible like things weren’t supposed to happen to me. But the Safety Team is always on top of it and there really isn’t anyway to say thank you or to show your appreciation like you would like to after they help you out.”
Warner is doing well and looks forward to the 2024 racing season.
Craig Hanson suffered a compression fracture in his back in turn one during one of the early season events at Fonda, putting him out of racing for the rest of the 2023 season and out of work at his family business for a long stretch of time.
“They are the best at what they do,” Hanson said about the Teal Suit Safety Team. “As a driver you hope that you never need their assistance, but we are very fortunate to have them at Fonda. Some tracks don’t even have a safety team, especially ones that train like Terri (Mohrman) and her team do, so you just have to hope that whoever is there knows what they are doing.”
Hanson is still in a little bit of pain, and there is no time frame when or if the pain will ever go away. He has a brand new Bicknell to race in 2024 so he is going to try to race and if he can do it he will continue and if not he will have to make a tough decision. “I’m gonna give it a try,” Hanson said. “I don’t want my last ride to be in an ambulance.”
Kurtis Hohensheldt was involved in a wreck at Fonda and suffered three broken ribs, a broken wrist and forearm that required eight screws and a rod, a hole in his shin bone that required 13 stitches, and a severe concussion.
“I’m doing much better now but my arm is still sore and weak and could take up to a full year to fully heal,” Hohensheldt said. “I do plan on racing in 2024 but probably not until June or July because I want to give my arm the full year to heal.”
Regarding the Teal Suits Safety Team Hohensheldt added “they are top notch; they somehow got a 250 pound guy out of a destroyed racecar. I could have never got out of the car on my own and they were just very professional, supportive, and I couldn’t ask for better people to handle the terrible situation that I found myself in. I am very grateful for all of the safety team members.”