HEY! Ever been to any Sports Car Club of America (
SCCA) "road course" races?
Why not?…Been, but looking for that "missing magic"? Well...what a deal I have for you.
Experience up close and personal a heightened sense of racing's best offerings; excitement, knowledge,
involvement and camaraderie (not to mention...you get in free). Become a member
of the subculture known as "Race Officials". This is the "Worker Corps" of the
SCCA, volunteering their time and efforts for many reasons, all good, but basically...
IT'S FUN! I'm an experienced novice flagger (you never know it all), who wonders
if the excuse of "I don't wanna" really means "I dunno how". If this is indeed the truth, I hope the following
insights gleaned from working with these crazy (SUPER) people makes it easier
for you to get started.
GETTING TO THE TRACK
AT THE TRACK
FOR COLD WEATHER CORNER WORKING
ONCE ON STATION
PLAY SAFE and HAVE FUN !!
First trick...become a SCCA
member. Next, contact your regions Flag Chief, tell them you have admitted to yourself the fact you are crazy
and wish to come out of the closet thus announcing it to the world! This bold step will provide you with the
best seat at every track, the opportunity to play a vital role in racing (from it's grass roots to it's pinnacles,
everyone's idea of the pinnacle differs) and the chance to perform team operations with the best of the best - the
SCCA Flagging and Communications Workers of the World!
Becoming a novice corner worker you will need only a few basic items of clothing, a little training and the
desire to be necessary, without fanfare or reward. Actually the rewards are many, there is great racing to
be witnessed, a party at each event, good friendships to be made and cherished over the years and maybe
even the thanks of a driver (or two) whose life you may have saved during the day. Most of the rewards will
come from within yourself, the pride of knowing you can do the job.
A flagger is responsible for providing their own uniform and personal equipment. Creativity abounds, but
safety is the major consideration...first, last and always.
The uniform is referred to as "Whites". White is the requested color to be worn on station because it's
easy to spot. All of your outerwear should be of 100% cotton. Cotton "breathes" allowing for good
ventilation. More importantly, cotton when exposed to flame is slow to burn and will not melt against your
skin, as a synthetic will. Stay away from the synthetic/cotton combinations, even 40% of a shirt melted to
your skin would be painful.
Don't quit now...the SCCA has many safety guidelines, this is just the first you will learn. A good source
for 100% cotton pants is the famous "Duck Painters Pants". White, 100% cotton shirts are a little harder
to find, those old worn button down collared "Oxford Cloth" shirts are the ticket. Your shirts should be long
sleeved, for protection from the cold or sunburn or insect bites.
Simple enough...until you get to a corner and witness the many "shades" of white being worn there.
Once you are on a corner, you will find some of what you've been told are strict rules, will be personally
interpreted. You won't be kicked off a corner for wearing blue Levis, but the safer you play, the safer
you will be. Remember, the rules and guidelines are created to insure the highest degree of safety for
Here is an area where you will see a number of different "rules" interpretations. The recommended
footwear for the corner worker is boots with leather uppers and soles resistant to petroleum products
which provide good gripping on paved surfaces. Arguments can be started at any gathering of workers
by mentioning steel toe boots are or are not the correct footwear. High topped boots do provide extra
protection from many hazards, such as hot pipes on the sides of Corvettes being pushed, or low lying
briar bushes on the way to the johns. Let the wearer beware!
Prepare for working a corner station as you would prepare to attend a picnic. Sound strange?...bear
with me. When attending a picnic: you should tell someone you plan to attend (unless you "vant to be
alone"); you may have to park far from the picnic site, carry and be responsible for the many items (or
remember at least half of them) required for a successful outing; be prepared for the elements; consider
the needs your fellow, more unprepared, picnickers; bring snacks and drinks.
If you have attended a "Crash and Burn School" (do it, if you haven’t, or again if you haven’t in a while),
or your Regional Chief has noted your interest, you will probability be placed on "flagger mailing lists".
If not, give your name and address to anyone in "Whites".
Most Regional Flag Chiefs mail out news (in the form of "flyers"), from past and invitations to upcoming
events thru out the racing season. Worker flyers contain vital items of interest, such as: upcoming events;
event scheduling; worker meeting locations and times; party location; tidbits on the specialty; general
gossip. It will be your most accurate schedule thru out the season. The flyer will also contain a return form
for you to fill out and/or "other" ways to contact the organizing powers. Returning the information is VERY
IMPORTANT to both you and the Flag Chief. Send the information back! This, at the very least, keeps your
name on an "active" list, lets the Flag Chief know who to expect on a certain weekend, the experience
levels available, gives insight into how to distribute the workers and most importantly, the number of "goodies"
required. Second on any Flag Chief's wish list, after "having more than enough" workers, is having people
who said they would be there…actually show up! This is why you SHOULD ALWAYS contact the Chief if
your plans change after returning the flyer.
The following items should at least be considered as a starting point:
This is a basic suggested list, with experience you will learn too much gets heavy and you will always
take out what you need...the night before you need it.
- Police/Referee Whistle - they don't make 'em too loud! Please don't blow it when on the radio.
- Workers gloves - welders gloves are good candidates, you may have to handle hot parts.
- Hat(s) - temperature, peripheral vision, shading of the eyes and climate are considerations
- Rain gear - keep in mind what you may be required to do, under "liquid sunshine" conditions.
- Knife and/or utility tool - "Be Prepared" A sharp blade, screwdriver and pliers come in handy.
- Sunglasses - no matter what the weather (sand, dust, gravel, etc. may be blown around so a pair of safety type glasses are recommended when there is no sun).
- Racers tape - Rated for at least 50 M.P.H. Quick "duct tape" will do.
- Suntan lotion - Needed we always hope! Sunblock lotions for hands, face and neck.
- Lip Balm - to keep lips moist (you never know when the driver you helped may wish to personally thank you at the party).
- Insect repellent - can be used as deodorant, if necessary (but then you’d smell funny to the other flaggers).
- Aspirin or medications you may require (bee sting kit, "Haley's MO, T.P., etc...)
- Garbage bags - it's amazing the things you can do with them, you can even put trash in them!
Ask your Flag Chief for the Registration times for the event. Be early to register, seek out the "Worker
line", be prepared to show your membership and workers license (a Regional Workers License can be
obtained before, or at an event, from the Flag Chief).
For all workers, getting to the worker meeting as early as possible is a very strong recommendation.
Being early allows a novice the opportunity to "Stop, Look and Listen". This is an important and familiar
phrase around a race track. If there is but one consistency from track to track, workers talking about
what they do or the conditions they do it under, is it. Observe the other workers, their clothing and gear.
Ask questions. A good first question for a novice to ask is, "Is there a mini school for novices this
weekend?". Don't be discouraged if receive a "duh?" answer. Seek out the Flag Chief and introduce
yourself as a novice (you WILL be welcomed), pose the question to the Flag Chief.
The Flag Chief is responsible for the workers weekend safety, performance and good time. Mini schools
given at the track during race weekends are great! They are usually conducted when there is a sufficient
number of novices present to justify holding one (bring some friends). Even if you have been fortunate
enough to attend a Certified "Crash and Burn School", a mini school provides specific training at the track
you will be working THAT weekend, conducted by worker(s) experienced in the operations at THAT track
and under the sanction of THAT region. A "mini school" should take only a couple of hours at most. Again,
"Stop, Look and Listen", ask questions at appropriate times. This process gives the novice the opportunity
to learn and the instructor the opportunity to evaluate your readiness to be "turned loose on a corner".
If there will not be a mini school, you will already have introduced yourself to the Flag Chief, making them
aware you are present. Assignment to corner stations will follow an informal meeting. Generally the worker's
meeting schedule allows only 10 to 20 minutes to get to your turn and set up the station. A major reason
to be prompt and ready!
At a mini school or in the "corner packet" there may be pertinent information that the region has prepared
for it's flaggers.
THE CORNERS (TURNS)
and THEIR PERSONNEL
On the turn, you will be working under a Corner Captain. The Captain has all of the responsibilities of a
Flag Chief, within the limits of their turn. Also on the turn will be a Communicator, responsible for the
transmission of information between the Captain and Race Control. Two workers manning the yellow
and blue/yellow flags will be positioned in a manner which affords them safety and the ability to
communicate, via the flags, with the drivers. This is the normal four person corner crew. Members of
the crew will rotate, working each position on the corner, with the exception of the Captain, who is "it"
all day. You may be placed with a veteran to observe and to be observed for a period of time. "Stop, Look
and Listen", ask questions, at appropriate times, be alert always.
The more familiar you become with the track, the corner station(s) layout and the methods of operation
of the region, the better prepared you will be. But that comes with time and experience, don't expect one
without the other. The veteran corner workers will appreciate a quick, alert, safe learner much more than a hero.
(Yes, the event WILL BE HELD in cases of inclement weather)
FEET (Keep them warm and dry):
- Socks: Thin thermal and/or 100% cotton in multiple layers
- Boots: Well fitting, allowing multiple layers of socks while still providing a good, comfortable fit.
Weather conditioned leather outers recommended.
WAIST and LEGS:
Pants: Outer shell of 100% cotton with normal and thermal underwear, layered. Mobility is a key factor.
WAIST to NECK:
Outer Shell: Few singular winter garments or jackets are available, fitting the recommended requirements
of corner working. Your outer shell should be warm, loose fitting enough to allow for "breathing" and layering
beneath, fire protective and of a color suitable for ease of driver recognition without being con fused with a
flag. Layering of thermal underwear in combination with 100% cotton undershirts and shirts, covered by a
100% cotton white workers coat (normally too large), should be adequate in providing both warmth and
protection. The coat should have a collar, the taller the better.
HEAD (The majority of your body heat is lost above your neck! Fact!):
- Hat: Put away the mesh caps! Cotton stocking caps work well providing warmth to both ears and
head, but offer no shade for the eyes when the sun is out. A full bodied cotton baseball type cap will
provide the top of the head with heat retention and shade the eyes. Some baseball type caps have ear
flaps which can be worn up or down, to warm, or not, your ears. Ski headbands can be worn, in
conjunction with a cap, providing both ear warmth and a means to keep your hat on.
- Hoods: Hooded outer wear gives protection to the back of the neck and the head, but greatly
restricts side to side head mobility and vision. Hoods can be worn between sessions for added protection
or to offer a brief change to mode of dress. A hood worn (whether up or down) on station during a session,
presents itself in the form of a hazard, as a "body hook". When working, remove the hood or tuck it inside
the back of the coat.
- Ski Mask: Very bad terminology! Much better - Racing approved facial covering. If you're so inclined
and cost is no problem, buy it new...or beg a old one off a bearded racing buddy.
- Sunglasses: Yes! The winter and early spring sun rises and stays low in the sky (read...in your eyes
most of the day). Dirt, dust and debris from the track are always present, protect your eyes and vision.
SKIN and LIP PROTECTION:
Skin protection is usually used during the warmer periods, but the effects of the cold and wind are
very hard on the skin. A cold weather sunburn has to be considered, as most of us have been wintering
indoors, subjected to only the ultraviolet rays given off by the TV reruns of last years racing. A good
suntan lotion or sun block should offer protection against sunburn and provide a moisturizer for the drying
effects of the breezes. Lip chapping can be offset with the use of a lip balm. There are numerous lip balms
on the market, in the form of sticks, which do not take up much space and offer protection from the
elements, in both cold and hot weather. Both a lotion and a lip balm are recommended worker bag staples.
Wear gloves! That sounds rather simple, especially since corner workers are supposed to wear them
anyway. But cooler temperatures sometimes make innovators of us, with good reason. Welding gloves
are probably the most common glove worn by corner workers. They good provide protection against fire,
hot debris, pushing on hot tires, steam leaks and yes, even sunburn. The tall cuffs of welders gloves reach
over the cuffs of coats and shirt sleeves giving protection to the area above the wrist, at the same time
allowing a pocket of air flow. Welding gloves are normally of a large fit, making them easy and quick to get
off, if needed. The roomy fit of these gloves make them good candidates for being worn over a pair of
warmer gloves...layering, in other words.
A very high priority consideration when preparing for cold weather corner working is the ability to move
about in your layered configuration. Insure you retain the mobility which may be required of you on
station. Once dressed, do some stretching exercises, breaking in your new suit of cold weather armor.
Jog in place, checking the fit of your boots and socks (an army may travel on their stomach, but corner
workers stand and run on their feet all day!). Bend over, to see if you can...and what pops out. Then
readjust to suit.
ONCE ON STATION:
Observe your fellow workers (your number 2 priority, always). Insure they are prepared for the weather.
Keep active, change positions frequently. Standing in one spot or position for a long period of time should be avoided.
Drink plenty of fluids, water is still a great fluid, even in the cold. Coffee and drinks high in caffeine content are
stimulating. Hot drinks may produce the feeling of being colder than before drinking them, once the body has
reduced the initial warmth of them, due to a "super cooling" effect. Familiarize yourself with the adverse effects
of over exposure to the cold. Advise the captain, or anyone available, of any abnormal personal feelings or
behavior from your co-workers, quickly! Cold can kill!
PLAY SAFE and HAVE FUN !!
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