Runner’s safety is of utmost importance and a priority at KAEM. During the past 21 years KAEM has built extensive experience in managing an extreme event of this nature. We had to overcome a number of challenges and learnt meaningful lessons that informed and improved operations in a significant way.
KAEM has a top medical support team who focuses on runner’s safety. In compliance to the South African Events Act, KAEM has a disaster management plan in place that is compiled together with the medical doctor. This plan is reviewed and updated every year with input from past years’ experience.
With KAEM come extreme conditions and a number of potential dangers that have to be managed by both participants and KAEM. The most prominent of extreme conditions is extreme heat in combination with humidity. Measuring safety of participants in these extreme conditions, KAEM utilises a mathematical graph that indicates potential danger in terms of dehydration by assessing the combined effect of high temperatures and humidity levels. Should the indication of danger be above a certain level, KAEM management together with the Medical Doctor has to assess the situation and make a decision for the safety of participants.
Water and food consumption are vitally important to the safety of participants. Should conditions demand the distribution of additional water, it will be done. However participating in a self-sufficient desert race does require participants to have the ability to run/walk in extreme conditions on minimum water and food without endangering themselves. The medical team watches and monitors participants carefully to detect any dehydration and might force participants to rest at certain check points or have something to eat, until their hydration levels have stabilised. In case of a participant being severely dehydrated or showing a loss of consciousness, participants might be withdrawn immediately.
Mother Nature always plays a major role in any outdoor event and KAEM is most exposed to these, be it floods, dust storms or fires. Often routes are changed either the day before or on the day to accommodate a given natural conditions that may arise.
The route is always clearly marked, with markers every 300 to 400 meters. Participants are instructed to go back on the road and find the marker should they not see a marker for about 1 km. Any participant found more than 1 km off the route will be withdrawn from the event.
In general, KAEM field operations enable crew members to continuously monitor the whereabouts of participants, provided that they remain on route. In case a participant loses track of the route and veers off the course, this will become apparent within a relative short period of time and a dedicated search for the participant will immediately be undertaken by vehicle, quad bike or on foot.
An additional ruling that has been put in place to assist in the safety of all participants is the exclusion of earphones or ear pieces on route during the race. Participants are NOT ALLOWED to wear earphones or ear pieces on route during the race. Earphones block out external sounds and participants wearing earphones will not hear someone calling for help or shouting a warning.