Saturday | November 18, 2017
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Updated: 
October 10, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — With the Ironman World Championship days away, the Hawaii Police Department is preaching the importance of individual safety plans in light of a fatal mass shooting that occurred just over a week ago in Las Vegas.

Ironman draws thousands of volunteers, spectators and athletes each year. Local, state and federal agencies are working together to make sure the worldwide event on Saturday is safe and secure for all involved. At this time, Hawaii police officials say, there are no credible threats.

“Our primary mission here is to provide the safety and security of volunteers, spectators and athletes including events leading up to the race,” said John Bertsch, public safety director with World Championship Events.

On Oct. 1, 58 people were killed and nearly 530 were injured in an attack at the Route Harvest Festival where country music star Jason Aldean was performing for more than 22,000 fans. Hawaii Police Lt. Thomas Shopay said he expects 30,000 spectators during peak hours of the worldwide racing event.

“For the vast majority, this is their life goal to get here — so it’s not very controversial,” Shopay said of the event and athletes. “But neither was the concert.”

Shopay said those attending large events should always consider an escape plan or plan for cover.

Peak activity for Ironman is in the morning and evening. Shopay suggested spectators carry flashlights. Also, have a reunification plan if attending the event with friends or family.

“People have different concepts of what our responsibility is during an incident like the one in Las Vegas,” Shopay said. “Our first responsibility is to stop the threat.”

Basic first aid is also important. Shopay said medical personnel are not going to be able to get into a scene while there is still a danger. They will set up triage nearby and have victims brought to them.

Shopay said putting pressure on a wound until help arrives can save a life.

Aside from mitigating potential threats, police also deal with drones during the event. Shopay wants to remind the public that recreational operators cannot fly over people and could face possible citations if caught doing so.

There is a Kuleana hotline. Along the lines of “if you see something, say something,” Hawaii police encourages people to call the hotline if they see something out of the ordinary. That number is 961-2219.

Shopay said those that work with the public safety division in Ironman are good at what they do and take the safety and security of the event seriously.

The division within World Championship Events was formed in 2009. The division brought state, local and federal agencies together and they follow a concerted plan.

“We have robust and progressive plans to keep open-air venues as safe as we possibly can,” Bertsch said. “I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in Kona.”

A race operations center has been set up to keep track of safety and needs throughout the events of the day. Bertsch said there are 5,000 volunteers and the command center fields about 300 calls for service during the actual race day.

Calls for service include medical, bike repair, responding to aid stations or people dropping out of the race.

Bertsch said there is GPS tracking of all medical, bike tech vans and calls for service on the course.

This year’s Ironman is the largest race since its inception 39 years ago with 2,400 athletes participating and 66 countries, territories and regions represented.

Dan Berglund, senior manager for public relations, said it’s been growing for the past four or five years.

The first race was on Oahu in 1978.

“It moved to the Big Island and has been here ever since,” Berglund said. “There’s something to be said about the heat, the volcano and the winds — it really is the pinnacle race of endurance.”

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