IMS safety team prepared for severe weather threats
With activity ramping up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, protecting racegoers at the track during severe weather is priority one.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway contains 240,000, but can hold close to 300,000 people when you factor in the infield areas. We all know severe weather can move in fast, but tracking the storms and warning the fans is a finely-tuned science the Speedway takes very seriously.
"I'd like to know what all they're going to do," said Jenny Hensley, school field trip chaperone.
Safety is critical for Hensley. She's spending the day at the track with 300 elementary school children on a field trip. For her and the other chaperones, their protocol for handling bad weather is pretty simple.
"Whenever it looks bad enough, time to leave," said Hensley.
"We literally can zoom into the Speedway," said Kevin Forbes, IMS Director of Engineering.
But, a high-tech setup behind the scenes takes the guesswork out of second-guessing severe weather.
"The red rings are eight miles and the yellow rings are 30 miles," said Forbes.
Forbes leaves nothing to chance, working with a highly specialized radar and the National Weather Service around the clock.
"We know very accurately what the heavier weather is," said Kevin.
But, perhaps the best method of protection is giving that information directly to the fans so they can see the radar for themselves and make their own judgement on what to do and when.
"I still wouldn't leave until the bad weather got here, even if I seen it on here, because sometimes it just don't happen. It don't get here," said Jerry Bramer, a race fan.
Bramer has been coming to the track for years. He admits he's not leaving this track unless he's forced to.
"If it started raining, I would go downstairs and wait until it stopped raining," said Bramer.
But, sometimes, hanging around is not an option and evacuation becomes necessary.
"For the entire track, we're looking at less than an hour," said Gary Coons, Director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security uses a high-tech modeling system to plan the best routes for the quickest exit.
"This allows us to add more science to it and more training. If you put another officer here, does it move the crowd faster?" said Coons.
Weather experts will tell you it's always better safe than sorry with Mother Nature. That's why the goal here is to warn early and often of coming severe weather. In the event something springs up that doesn't allow time to get to the car and get out of the area, there are plenty of concrete corridors and underground tunnels at this facility to accommodate the crowds in an extreme emergency.