Dubai: Every Fun Drive involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and the one at Tilal Swaihan is no exception.
A key element is the control room set up in the middle of Tilal Swaihan where a team of marshals and volunteers track participants on the route.
The team at the control room is in constant touch with marshals on duty to help punters (participants) of the Fun Drive.
Leading the team is Mitchell Perera, Head of Control Room for the Gulf News Fun Drive.
How it works
Perera explained that in the control room, volunteers set up their laptops and smart phones. “We have a TV fixed to monitor the participants and marshals on route,” he said.
“Every participant is given a guide book. I would request everyone to read it thoroughly. There is an emergency number mentioned which participants can call in case of any emergency or if they get stuck on the sand and are unable to pull themselves out.”
Perera said he and his team work with a colour-coded digital map. “Registered marshals are given one colour for identification and participants another. On the TV screen, the digital map is laid out and we can, at any given time, see the participants and marshals.”
“If a punter goes off track, we alert a marshal to look for them. Usually, participants call on the emergency number to let us know they need help. In instances where their phones may be dead, there is nothing to worry. We are monitoring participants on the route via the digital app which is laid out on the TV screen for us. So, if a car is not moving for about half an hour, we send a marshal to check on the vehicle. Usually, help arrives even quicker for we have marshals spread out in and around the route to rescue participants at any given time.”
Participants and marshals are given a number. So the communication is done through numbers. “So, if participant number 308 requires help, we send marshal number 3478 there. The nearest marshal is sent to help a participant.”
Perera explained another scenario in case of an accident. “Let’s say a car has rolled onto the soft sand. Marshals will immediately attend. If there is minor damage to the car and passengers are safe, we take details of the car and call the IATC recovery. The marshal attending will give us at the control room the GPS location of the car. We pass this to the IATC recovery team. Punters will be shuttled with the marshal to the nearest check point where another recovery shuttle will take them to the camp. Gulf News has mini bus transfers from the checkpoint or marshals themselves drive participants to the nearest camp.”
“At the camp, the participant will report to Naheed Patel, who will direct them to the Al Ain Police station on our camp site where all insurance work will be taken care of.”
It is not over till it is over
Perera said the sweep team of marshals at the back ensure all cars clear the check point. “Only when they give the go-ahead, will we stand down a check point. But they have to confirm this. They go through all the check points and once they confirm all the vehicles have left, we will close the shop.”
He added: “Rest assured no one is left behind. We want everyone to enjoy the thrill of the Fun Drive and be safe in their adventure.”
Usually, participants call on the emergency number if they need help. In instances where their phones may be dead, there is nothing to worry. We are monitoring them on the route via the digital app.