County outfits EMS with bicycles
The annual Fish Camp Jam in Gaston County, N.C., regularly draws about 150,000 attendees for food, music and fun. But, like every large outdoor event, the annual festival always claims a few injuries among its patrons. Since 1997, the Fish Camp Jam has had a “safety net” on the scene, thanks to the county’s bicycle emergency response team (BERT). The paramedics on wheels provide medical support for special events, such as road races, festivals or concerts, where large crowds are expected.
In the event of an emergency, the bike team can provide immediate assistance. If transport is needed for a patient, the team notifies the communications center, and an ambulance is sent. The team also provides off-road medical assistance when access by conventional EMS personnel is hindered by rough terrain.
In the first year of the program, team members purchased their own mountain bikes, and Gaston County EMS purchased medical packs and equipment, helmets and uniforms. After a successful first year, the county has purchased additional bicycles for the BERT program.
Bikers carry medical kits that include medications, respiratory equipment, bandages, a cardiac monitor and oxygen. Each bike is fitted with rack packs and saddlebags that can be removed for patient contact.
In its first year, BERT consisted of 24 members, most of whom were EMTs. In 1998, the program was expanded to 35 members, including county volunteer rescue squads and “Explorers” — volunteers ages 14 to 21. Explorers are trained in First Aid and CPR and participate in all event coverage. At least one EMT paramedic and one or two additional BERT members accompany each Explorer team.
Last year, team members also began augmenting the Gaston County Emergency Management Urban Search and Rescue team.
For more information, contact Operations Supervisor/ EMT-P John Barrett at Gaston County EMS, P.O. Box 1578, Gastonia NC 28053; (704) 866-3210; e-mail, jbar [email protected]