Running USA Best Practices Guide: Race Command Centers
Insight on scalable ways to ensure event accountability and participant safety with a fully responsive event command center
There’s a best-case scenario for the command center of every running event, anywhere, ever, and it can be summarized in three little words: a boring day.
In a perfect world, the staff and liaison personnel designated to spend the hours of your race in the command center should be monitoring the event’s progress with little to respond to.
“In the command center on race day, it might be a boring day. In fact, we HOPE it’s a boring day,” said Elizabeth Vincenty, race director for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Twin Cities in Motion (TCM).
But increasingly, especially due to yearlong extreme weather conditions nationwide, command centers have become absolute necessities for events of all sizes. They’re scalable in size, meaning they range from a single race director with an operations binder and a radio or cell phone (aka “walking command”) to a tricked-out operations command that could be confused for the control room for a NASA space shuttle launch. More than likely, your event’s command center will fall somewhere in between.
“One key truth about command centers from Doug Flannery at NYRR, that I repeat a lot, is that ultimately a command center increases our ability to identify and mitigate issues, lowering risk,” said Vincenty, who has nearly two decades of experience in race operations and technology. She led an excellent session on command centers at Running USA 2019 in Puerto Rico (photo), leading to these general best practices for setting up a successful, scalable point of command for your event.
Command Center Basics
There are several key decisions that must be made during the setup process, and each element is scalable to best serve and support the unique needs of a given event. They include:
From a designated building to a temporary tent, location of the Command Center is key. It will need power and Internet connectivity in order to function well, so make sure the location can accommodate those utilities. Some events situate the command center close to your primary medical tent for ease of collaboration between the Command Center and the medical team. Some safety planners prefer to have the command center removed from the main event venue for safety reasons. If an incident were to occur in the event staging area, a removed command center would be beneficial. Your command center could be mobile – perhaps housed in an RV or other vehicle – so that it can easily be moved in the case of an incident or from race to race. It could also be very small. For TCM’s smallest races, Vincenty operates her command center solo from her personal vehicle
Download the full guide to find all of the Command Center Basics plus Beyond the Basics: How to Best Prepare for Incident Response. All content downloads are free for Running USA members - login to download the full PDF.