Large, crowded events like this weekend's Riverfest can be difficult to navigate for first responders. Thanks to some training from Cincinnati Police and guidance from other area fire departments, Cincinnati is launching an EMS Mountain Bike Unit. Captain Kevin Uhl says the squad aims to reach people faster during special events.
"The person on a bike will be able to locate the (victim) and hopefully get to the person much quicker because they're quicker and able to navigate the area much quicker than someone on foot, and they're more agile than someone that's in a big ambulance that can't even drive through the area," Uhl says.
Faster response times are known to lead to better outcomes for patients. The units carry a lot of specialized equipment so they can begin to render care immediately.
"For example, a treatment like defibrillation," he points out. "That is a treatment that is very time sensitive. Every minute that goes by when a person does not receive a shock, they lose roughly about 7-10% survival. So, when seconds are that important, it's vital that we get to them very quickly and we don't spend too much time looking for them."
Fifteen paramedics are trained to patrol and respond while riding bikes carrying 30 pounds of gear.
"You're going at exceptionally slow speeds around obstacles, down stairs, up curbs ... and you got to do all those things while still maintaining balance and control of your bike and all of your equipment," Uhl says. "A lot of the equipment is very expensive so you don't want to fall and break yourself or the equipment."
The unit currently has six bikes, so paramedics will patrol in sets of two. Uhl says the department may be able to add two more bikes by the end of the year, and it's already planning for future events where the unit might come in handy, like the Flying Pig Marathon.
All of the equipment, bikes and uniforms, Uhl says, were paid for with a donation from the Cincinnati Fire Foundation, not taxpayer dollars. He points out some paramedics even underwent training on their own time.
The unit is comprised of only paramedics for now, though other medical responders could be added in the future to work other kinds of community outreach programs like bike safety events for children.
The department tweeted a promotional video about the new unit. You can watch it below.
Just in time for Riverfest, we are excited to announce our EMS Mountain Bike Unit! Our sincere thanks to @FireCincinnati for their generous donation to get the program started! pic.twitter.com/LdtkTm0Zo7
— Cincy Fire & EMS (@CincyFireEMS) August 27, 2019