The medical staff working in 18 first-aid stations on the Pittsburgh Marathon course and a field hospital Downtown on Sunday will carry supplies most people thought were unnecessary before the fatal Boston Marathon bombings.
Along with tourniquets, bandages and IV fluids needed to treat traumatic injuries like those encountered April 15, some medical staffers will carry new technology to better track patients.
The Pittsburgh Marathon bought 36 computer tablets to access a tracking program that race organizers in Houston first used this year and Chicago used in the past two. Staff will log in any runner who gets help at an aid station or the medical tent, is transported from the course by medics or is picked up by buses that monitor the slowest participants.
"We can get a complete picture of what's going on with runners and the aid stations," said race director Patrice Matamoros.
Race officials will get real-time statistics from the field on who is getting what kind of help and where. Organizers can dispatch needed supplies and people, and plan for next year's race, Matamoros said. Pittsburgh organizers are working with Chicago and Houston race officials.
The system will have each runner's name, bib number and emergency contact information pre-loaded.
"In a situation where a runner has been admitted at one of the tents, they're asked for permission, and a Red Cross worker will reach out to that emergency contact," said Dee Stathis, director of logistics and operations for the marathon, who saw officials in Houston use the system in January.
Officials will use it to help family members find people at the "lost runner" table near the finish line.
"We had a database in years past, but medical personnel didn't have the tablets and the system," Matamoros said.
She did not have a cost estimate for the system.
The system, which was planned before the bombings, is part of a bulked-up medical presence that matches the higher security precautions organizers are taking because of the deaths and injuries in Boston.
Officials last week announced new limits on where people can go and what they can carry on race day. On Wednesday, they discussed changes in how they will treat runners beyond the normal sprains and strains, heatstroke and heart issues.
"You usually don't expect the battlefield injuries that they saw" in Boston, said Pittsburgh Acting EMS Chief Mark Bocian. "I don't know that anyone, anywhere is prepared for a bomb going off and all they saw with amputees and those injuries."
Among the enhancements:
- Twenty members of Western Pennsylvania ski patrols will form a rapid-response first aid team at the finish line. They can quickly run to treat injuries, Matamoros said.
- More than 400 medical volunteers from UPMC will work the race, about 100 more than last year, said Dr. Ron Roth, the race's medical director.
- Crews from 26 ambulances from outside Pittsburgh will join city paramedics along the route, an increase to 23 from 20 units in years past.
UPMC and the EMS agencies are providing the medical supplies. Bocian said Allegheny County always keeps trailers full of medical supplies scattered across the region for a mass-casualty event.
"We'll bring them closer to the race on Sunday," he said.
People supervising the volunteers who line the race route and work at fluid and aid stations will use the radio system organizers had in Boston.
Roth expects this year's enhanced plans to become the standard for races.
Organizers are monitoring Sunday's weather and ordered more water and cups because fluid stations ran out last year, when the temperature unexpectedly climbed into the 70s with a blazing sun. The marathon ordered about 28,000 gallons of water - up from about 20,000 gallons last year - and increased its order of drinking cups by 100,000 to 450,000.
"We're overdoing it everywhere," Matamoros said of the increased water supplies.
The forecast for the race's 7 a.m. start has temperatures in the mid-50s. They are set to be in the 60s about 1 p.m., with low humidity and overcast skies.
Runners and spectators should review race-day guidelines for what they should and should not bring at www.pittsburghmarathon.com.