Safety Director Rich Unferdorfer is a hardworking and dedicated member of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (LOORRS) team. He is both family oriented and service oriented, which lends to his attention to detail and quickness to action. Rich prides himself on never handling a request with a direct “no.” Not before he first explores every possible option.
A native of Oil City, Pennsylvania, as a child Rich and his family would regularly watch Rich’s uncle compete at the local dirt track. He was instantly hooked. Rich fell in love with the loud engines, the speed, and the overall sense of danger. From that moment on, Rich held a fascination with motors and anything that can go fast.
Rich began his career as a volunteer fireman 36 years ago in Pennsylvania. He then moved to California in 1987 and began working at Apple Valley Fire Protection District as a paid call firefighter. His first job as a full time firefighter was with the Fort Irwin Fire Department, adjacent to the namesake California military installation, in 1989.
Two years later, he transferred back to Apple Valley full time for the remainder of his career. Throughout the years, Rich would climb up the ranks eventually becoming the station’s Apparatus Operator, Hazard Material Specialist, Lieutenant, and then Safety Officer before earning his final title as Fire Captain. During his tenure at Apple Valley, Rich’s peers awarded him Employee of the Year and selected him and his crew to represent the Apple Valley Fire Protection District during the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) post Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. The collective work of Rich and his crew during floods and fires have also earned them the American Legion Award for Outstanding Heroism and Apple Valley Fire Protection District Medal of Honor. In August of 2019, after a successful career in the fire fighting, Rich retired from his role as Fire Captain and relocated to Tennessee so he could focus all of his attention on the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Rich has served an integral role with LOORRS since its first season in 2009, but his affiliation with short course off road goes back even further. Since he always had an interest in things that go really fast, Rich was excited when a colleague of his asked him to be a safety official for the Championship Off Road Racing (CORR) organization in California in the mid 2000s. He instantly fell for the sport. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. With that appreciation, Rich quickly realized he could make things safer for the drivers, which soon turned into his initiative to serve as Safety Director. Since then, he’s worked tirelessly in the best interest of the drivers, continuously researching, and implementing new ways to ensure the safety of those behind the wheel, as well as those in and around the grandstands.
While racing has an offseason, Rich remains busy year round, working to find improvements or enhancements to current safety regulations. Of his various responsibilities, pre event safety clearances for team members is among the most important, to ensure everyone is well prepared. Additionally, Rich builds unique incident action safety plans for each event, as well as heat action and fire safety plans in the event of emergencies. Each event also includes daily safety check-ins to ensure everything is running smoothly.
One aspect of Rich’s pre-event safety checklist includes sharing a general event outline document with all safety personnel that includes an in-depth list of possible hazards they may encounter during the event and weather forecast to ensure all members are ready for possible environmental issues. Rich also conducts a pre race safety briefing to discuss situational awareness, weather, environmental hazards, fire extinguisher use, track operations and any safety issues that came up during the days before the event.
Once the racing begins, Rich switches gears to race control. His oversight encompasses all aspects of emergency medical, fire suppression and extrication of an injured or trapped driver. He also directs private local emergency medical advanced life support personnel onsite for any medical emergency that may arise. When the action is complete, Rich spearheads building out the After Action Report and takes a lead role in the Post Event Critique, which allows for continued analysis of the overall safety program and can initiate any needs for improvement.
And when it comes to choosing his team of safety professionals, skill and dedication are two traits Rich expects to see in each team member. Having the appropriate knowledge and training are critical to the success of Rich’s team. One must have at least completed a professional fire academy just to be considered for a position. All safety team personnel must also currently work or have held a full-time position in a Fire Service or EMS role. The current men and women on Rich’s safety team have all completed fire academy and excelled in fire service. Each member also brings a special skill or quality that benefits the team.
Besides the talented staff, Rich’s favorite part of the job is collaboration.
“Having the opportunity to work on safety in the off road series, but also having the opportunity to work with several of the other Lucas Oil racing series, within their production facilities for the overall betterment of the company, is everything I could ask for,” said Rich. “I get to work with the best of the best. I feel like it’s the best motorsports safety team operating today.”
For the 2020 season, Rich is most looking forward to getting back on the tracks and racing with the fantastic people he gets to work with every weekend.