Before you save democracy, be sure to save your walkers from harm! The key to walker safety is being seen! That’s why we strongly urge all walkers to bring reflective safety vests and why we can even make a limited number of vests available to you at your request. Should something go wrong, please instruct your walks that 911 is always their first call. As backup until the medics arrive, we highly recommend having a designated first-aid walker or driver with a walkie-talkie on hand. First aid kits are also available at your request.
Having friendly drivers accompanying you to scope out the scene ahead, post safety signs, and scoop up a walker in need of rest is also critical. We recommend recruiting at least three volunteer support vehicles for a standard walk of 10-20 miles, and more volunteer “shuttle” drivers (depending on the number of walkers) at the end of the walk to give walkers a ride back to their cars (you may also need volunteer “shuttle” drivers at the beginning of the day if your parking location is not walking distance from your kick-off location).
For the support vehicles staying with the walk, there should be two vehicles that take turns leapfrogging ahead of the group in order to display a warning sign to oncoming traffic and assess safety ahead. One or two other vehicles should be making passes by the group to check for walkers needing assistance, to distribute drinks and snacks, and to give a walker a lift or pick up supplies as needed. All of the support vehicle drivers should have walkie-talkies.
There should also be one lead walker at the front and one sweep walker at the back making sure no walkers go ahead or fall behind. Both the lead and sweep walkers should also have walkie-talkies. In the end, it’s all about the group arriving together, not any one person doing the whole walk themselves. This means that your inclement weather / emergency plan may include getting taking walkers off the road and to a safe location with the support vehicles, and that if the group becomes too spread out from front to back, the rear walkers must be willing to accept a ride to rejoin the group.
Friendly law enforcement officers are a terrific asset, so be sure to give notice of your walk to all police departments along your route in advance. Let them know that you are taking all possible safety precautions and are just making them aware of your presence as a courtesy; you do not need their permission so long as you are not interfering with traffic or putting anyone in danger (requests official assistance comes at a charge).
For added safety and fun, we recommend using a GPS tracking app like Livetrekker to track your walk in live-time so that your progress can be posted the website.
You will also want to start and end your walk with a brief/debrief with your walkers, to cover safety items and get feedback from them. And be sure to complete the spreadsheet template with police, hospital, and other important information for each town.