When responding medical personnel had trouble accessing the 27-hole Rossmoor Walnut Creek (Calif.) property, the club erected permanent signs at 10 locations for emergency vehicles to access the golf courses. “When you’re in an emergency, you don’t always think straight, [so] it helps to have emergency information right in front of you,” says Director of Golf Mark Heptig.
People can practice social distancing on the golf course, but errant golf balls have little regard for Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Just ask the golfers at the 27-hole Rossmoor Walnut Creek (Calif.) property, which features the nine-hole Creekside Course and the 18-hole Dollar Ranch Course.
About 18 months ago (long before social distancing was a thing), a player took a glancing blow to the head from a golf ball on the third hole of the Dollar Ranch Course. The incident was frightening enough to call 911, but logistics delayed the arrival time of the responding medical personnel.
“There was no crossing street, and the emergency vehicle ended up on the wrong side of the valley,” says Director of Golf Mark Heptig. “The person was fine later, but it woke us up to the fact that something serious could happen.”
In addition to errant golf balls, courses need to be aware, and ready to respond, should golfers fall or suffer from heat stroke, dehydration, reactions to medications, or even a heart attack. “We all know that in those situations, seconds and minutes mean everything,” says Heptig. “We haven’t had a lot of those situations, but we are in a retirement community.”
Even if only a few incidents occur in a year, he adds, EMTs need to be able to reach anyone who has suffered a medical emergency quickly.
So about a year ago, Rossmoor put up makeshift signs to mark access points to the golf courses, to see if a wayfinding system would work. In February, the property erected permanent signs at 10 locations for emergency vehicles to access the golf courses. Two signs were posted on Creekside, seven on Dollar Ranch, and one between the two courses.
Rossmoor got approval from the Board of Directors to post the signage, and property personnel also coordinated efforts with emergency responders.
“We invited them here and showed them what we were doing,” says Heptig. “They were receptive because they’d had trouble before.”
Emergency responders know the streets in the community, which has only one gated entry for more than 6,500 residential units, Heptig says, but they are not as familiar with the golf courses.
The park-like courses are two miles long from end to end. In addition, a creek runs through the middle of the tree-lined layouts, making the terrain difficult for emergency vehicles to navigate in some places.
The yellow, diamond-shaped wayfinding signs include a number and the words “EMT Access,” and are posted on poles along the streets at cart paths, or at small entrance roads to the courses.
Now, if Rossmoor staff members need to report an emergency on one of the courses, they can tell the dispatcher which entrance would provide the easiest access to the person in need. A marshal or golf professional can meet the emergency vehicles at the access point to show them the way to the incident.
The signs can also direct first responders to the location of incidents such as a brush fire or a home emergency. “They provide the quickest access and the best access for the vehicle,” Heptig says.
Personnel with the Rossmoor security company have maps of the golf courses, and the property also provided maps to ambulances, fire departments and other emergency response services outside the community.
Safety has always been paramount at Rossmoor. For at least two years, each golf car at the property has had a sticker in the windshield with emergency contact information that includes phone numbers for the community security agency and the golf pro shop, as well as a reminder to call 911 in an emergency. The staff has also provided emergency contact stickers for members to put in their privately owned golf cars.
“When you’re in an emergency, you don’t always think straight,” Heptig says. “It helps to have emergency information right in front of you.”
Rossmoor Walnut Creek’s golf courses reopened on May 5 after being shut down for several weeks because of COVID-19, but Heptig says the pandemic will not have any bearing on the use or effectiveness of the emergency response signs. “They’re in place and ready to be used,” he says.
As properties have learned all too well this year from the pandemic, anything can occur that can call for a little ingenuity to adjust to extenuating circumstances. “The unexpected can happen,” says Heptig. “It’s best to be prepared when it does.”