Monday | December 11, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Officials work together to make sure Ironman events are safe and secure for everyone

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

Ironman draws thousands of volunteers, spectators and athletes from around the world each year. Island, state and federal agencies are working together to make sure the event Saturday is safe and secure for all involved. At this time, Big Island law enforcement officials say there are no credible threats to the race.

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

On Oct. 1, nearly 60 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the 22,000 people in attendance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Hawaii Police Lt. Thomas Shopay said he expects 30,000 spectators during peak hours of Ironman.

“For the vast majority, this is their life goal to get here — so it’s not very controversial,” Shopay said about 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 also is 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.

Along the same lines as “if you see something, say something,” Big Island police encourage people to call the Kuleana Hotline if they see something out of the ordinary. The number is 961-2219.

Shopay said those who work with the Ironman World Championship Events public safety division are good at what they do and take the safety and security of the event seriously.

The division brings officials with 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 was set up to keep track of safety and needs throughout the Ironman events. Bertsch said there are 5,000 volunteers and the command center fields about 300 calls for service during race day itself. Calls for service include medical reasons, bike repair and 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 being represented.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at


Rules for posting comments