Thursday, May 10, 2012

Top-Down Training... Talladega Style

We often hear people talk about the importance of management not just providing, but being actively involved in training.  Like many training concepts, this can be difficult to illustrate and even harder to measure. This past weekend's NASCAR race at Talladega is an excellent example of how management's direct involvement pays off.

Here's a short clip showing a late-race incident involving Eric McClure (14).

Thanks to ESPN for the link to the video clip.  According to ESPN, an average of 3.5 million people were tuned in for the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Aaron's 312. That's a pretty large audience to have judging the effectiveness of your training. A couple of key points for anyone without an emergency services background:
  1. The average "acceptable" response time to a 911 call - even a horrific motor vehicle collision - is under 8 minutes from the time of the call to units arriving on scene.
  2. Medical personnel consider the first hour after a traumatic injury the "golden hour". Seriously injured patients delivered to a high-level trauma center within 60 minutes of injury have higher survival rates.
  3. From the time of Eric McClure's impact until his arrival at the UAB Trauma Center was around 30 minutes. This includes the initial assessment, disincarceration/extrication, and aeromedical transport.
Talladega, in conjunction with NASCAR, provides training every year. A lot of people would call the emergency services and support staff there "volunteers" because they are not compensated as employees; in fact - the majority of the personnel are from career agencies across the southeast.  They are in every sense of the word, professionals. The individual providing medical care to a team member in the pits could have been answering 911 calls in Birmingham, Atlanta, or even Tallahassee the week before.

So why is this an example of top-down training?

First, look at Dr. Bobby Lewis, the track's medical director. Dr. Lewis is ultimately responsible for the medical care provided.  He participates in training each year, working with crews and conducting scenarios very similar to the one that played out during the race.  He knows virtually every person working both on the track and in the track's medical center, and responds to serious incidents.  He works with the staff to evaluate past incidents - looking for ways to improve. Dr. Lewis doesn't micro-manage; its about observation, support, intervention when necessary, and helping those around him improve.

To put that in perspective - it would be as if the Emergency Room physician personally trained the EMT and Paramedic on the ambulance that responds to your house for a medical call, responded to your house to assist in your care, then followed up with you a week later.

But it doesn't stop with Dr. Lewis. Jimmy McKee, the track's Emergency Services Coordinator and Andy McWilliams, the Director of Operations work directly with all of senior management. They train on everything from fence and asphalt repair to guest services and security.  The names are too many to list - everyone has a role with a specific job that they train for, and a role in supporting everyone else as they do other jobs.

Senior management doesn't just provide support in the form of a wink-and-nod.  When a place for training was needed due to a scheduling issue, they reached out to the Motorsports Hall of Fame and secured the building and grounds.

Their training isn't wasteful. They look for and take advantage of opportunities to turn a routine maintenance operation into a training evolution by asking "what if this was race day?"  They make excellent use of their institutional knowledge - the team that built the fence helps train everyone on how to fix the fence; Bob Harrington (NASCAR's Asphalt Guru and all-around super guy) trained the operations staff on care and repair of the asphalt after the track was resurfaced.

The fact that everyone in the media is focused on the fact Eric McClure was released from the hospital and this week's race in Darlington instead of on the performance of the Talladega crew is a testament to teamwork and top-down training. Great job, gang. Great job.

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