Sunshine and Rowdy Golf:  Working the Phoenix Open

Sunshine and Rowdy Golf:  Working the Phoenix Open

by Ray Morris, EMSCI #029
Scottsdale Fire Department
Scottsdale, AZ

February 1, 2004. Occasional clouds interrupted the warm sunshine, as temperatures in Scottsdale hovered in the low 70's. My partner and I straddle our bikes at the legendary 16th hole, the "loudest hole in golf." We're among the 151,843 individuals who have passed through the gates on this winter day. At this point of the course, fans converge on the rolling hills surrounding the back nine. Here fans socialize at the 16th tee box, while they wait for a golfer to make a tee shot. When the ball is struck, the crowd lets out an enormous roar. The simple objective is for each fan to yell as loudly as possible just as the golfer hits the ball. It was at this Par 3 hole in the late 90's that Tiger Woods made a hole-in-one, causing the crowd let out a howl that has made this a legendary hole on the PGA circuit. It's also known as the rowdiest hole in golf.

For the most part, everybody conducts him or herself appropriately. However, there are several individuals who have consumed enough alcohol to impair their walking ability, while some females have selected outfits that are more suitable for the nightlife of Scottsdale than for walking 18 holes of golf. These characteristics that help make the Phoenix Open known for the largest, loudest, and rowdiest crowds on the PGA circuit. Nearly 600,000 spectators will converge on these 18 holes to watch the best golfers in the world compete.

For the past nine years, we've been utilizing mountain bikes to provide emergency care to those who become injured or ill at the Phoenix Open. Prior to this, we used only golf carts and foot power to gain access to incidents. Today we still use them, but now they serve as a supplement to the bikes, which have become our primary response unit. We have four bikes comprising two teams. Both teams are equipped with ALS and sufficient equipment for 20 minutes. Our medical equipment is carried in pannier bags, as well as a trunk that can be quickly removed and carried into the two- and three-story VIP skyboxes, which surround the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. The fashionable décor of furnishings, food, and beverages invite VIP guests to enjoy a complimentary day of catered leisure. Through years of experience, we've learned that it is more efficient to take only the equipment and leave the bikes, because of the crowded conditions and limited width of egress within the sky boxes.

Prior to the tournament play, each team member is required to ride the course. This enables us to learn the access points and become familiar with the location of the participating vendors. We also learn the pre-designated access points for golf carts, gurneys, ambulances and helicopter landing zones. With a crowd of this size, it is imperative that the crews know how to get around effectively. The golf course is divided in two and each bike team patrols one half; they may switch sides, but only with command approval. It is crucial that each rider has exceptional technical & slow riding skills; with this type of crowd there is not much riding room.

A local dealership donates an RV, and Mayo Hospital donates the medical staff and equipment for two first aid stations. One station is located at the main club house and the other at the 16th green. The medical staffing can consist of RNs, Ortho Techs, LPNs, respiratory techs, and/or doctors, all of whom work in the Mayo Hospital-Clinic system. The Mayo staff attends to an average of 145 individuals during the week. The Mayo staff is more apt to handle clinical situations and is extremely beneficial in providing basic medical care to the public. On the other hand, our personnel are better at functioning in emergency situations. It has taken a few years of refinements, but both agencies have realized that each has a service to provide and its own unique style of providing service to the public.

The fire personnel and equipment assigned to the tournament consist of four ALS mountain bikes, one ALS ambulance, one two-man brush truck, one four-man fire truck, and an Incident Commander (IC). Operational procedure consists of communicating on a designated channel with the Incident Commander, who is in contact with our dispatching center, Scottsdale Police, and Event Security. When the IC receives an emergency call, he notifies the bike team patrolling that area via radio.

The teams confirm information and respond over the radio, depending on the nature of the emergency. The second bike team will move in that direction as support and/or for central coverage. An ALS-equipped golf cart with two department personnel is also dispatched. Scottsdale Police and Event Security are notified; their primary responsibility is to assist in securing the scene and enabling for rapid treatment and transport. In the event a gurney is required for transport, a specially designed cart is dispatched. We also have an on-site ALS Ambulance assigned to the tournament that can be used when immediate transport is required.

When the bike team arrives on scene, the paramedic assesses the patient and determines the course of treatment. The EMT is responsible for taking command of the incident: advising command of precise location, requesting additional resources, and assisting with patient care. This has proven to be difficult for the less experienced EMT's, and therefore requires outstanding communication and teamwork between the bike team members.

When the ALS golf cart arrives on scene, the crew assists with patient care. If the patient's condition warrants, care is turned over the ALS cart. If not, care continues according to pre-hospital protocol. When the ALS gurney cart arrives, and patient condition warrants, the bike team will then restock from the ALS cart and return to available status. The patient is transported by the ALS crews to the appropriate designated ambulance access point. Our average response time has been one minute and 10 seconds; this past year we responded to 52 incidents.

Our work doesn't end with the day's golf. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights during the Open, up to 8,000 party-going individuals pack into an outdoor tent known as the "Bird's Nest." Each evening, two bands perform, and the party lasts from 4 pm to 1 am. Depending on the crowd size, we'll have one or two bike teams along with one ALS ambulance and a two-man brush truck. The units have been averaging 18 medical calls during the four nights. After working several years of the TPC and the "Birds Nest", the Scottsdale Fire and Police units have developed an outstanding work relationship and respect for unique requirements of each other's profession.

Through working these events, we've gained a lot experience on how to facilitate efficient inner agency dynamics. A main source of information is gained by looking outside the boxes, utilizing other agencies and services available from other providers. By developing a network system we can deliver superior service to the citizens, at a reasonable cost.

© 2004 IPMBA. This article first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of IPMBA News.

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