Westport EMS bike team ready to roll
Updated 7:11 am, Friday, May 13, 2011
If someone in the middle of a large outdoor crowd has a heart attack, an ambulance might not be able to get through to the victim quickly.
But EMTs on bicycles could.
Westport Emergency Medical Service is set to debut its newly organized EMS bike team at this month's Memorial Day parade, thanks to a recent donation from the Westport Kiwanis Club for two police-style mountain bikes.
"This is a huge boost," said Westport EMS Coordinator Marc Hartog, who noted that EMS, which has had plans to set up a bike team for several years, was on the verge of accepting an EMS member's personal bike to use at special events. However, a commitment of one bike by Westport Kiwanis turned into a promised two-bike donation last week after Michael Salvatore, a paramedic and Westport Volunteer EMS bike team coordinator, spoke at the group's monthly meeting. Hartog said Salvatore, who joined WVEMS in July, previously had been part of an EMS unit that had a bike team. He has become the driving force behind new bike team, according to Hartog.
The bikes would be used by EMS personnel at events such as the Memorial Day parade, the town's fireworks celebration, the annual blues festival near the Westport Public Library, and for events at the Levitt Pavilion. Each bike team member will carry approximately 40 pounds of life-saving equipment in saddle bags, including an automated external defibrillator capable of shocking a patient's heart back to life, oxygen tanks, and medications to treat allergic reactions and cardiac emergencies. Two team members recently completed a 32-hour EMS cyclist training program in Virginia during which they learned the skills needed to safely operate the bikes over obstacles and through rough terrain, as well as how to carefully navigate through large crowds of people.
"With the amount and type of equipment they will carry on the bikes they can begin immediately with stabilization and treatment of the patient while they're awaiting the arrival of the transport crew," Hartog said.
In the past, when ambulances were unable to get to a site, EMS members could only reach a patient as fast as their feet would allow. However, the new bikes are expected to change that.
"It's wonderful for us," said Hartog. "I'm really excited about the program. I think it gives us an additional way to augment and improve our service."
He added there was an incident last year where a man fell off a boat and was subsequently brought to the Ned Dimes Marina and "the fireworks were letting out just as our crews were trying to get in.
"Our crews had a difficult time trying to get to the patient," he added. Fortunately, there were a couple of police officers on bikes on scene, though their bicycles aren't equipped with nearly 40 pounds of medical gear. "The reality is that any time you have a large crowd event, depending on where the scene is, access to the patient can be difficult," he said.
Hartog now hopes to add two more bikes by the end of the month.
"I believe we're probably close to getting a commitment, to fund at least one, if not two," he said.
One bike may come from another civic organization while the other could be paid for by a local business, according to Hartog.
The second of the initial two bikes hasn't arrived yet, but Hartog expects that delivery in time for the Memorial Day parade.