BY GEORGE W. RHODES SUN CHRONICLE, October 12, 2013
ATTLEBORO - Ambulances sometimes seem to take corners on two wheels to get to someone who needs help, but a new city emergency medical service will always be on two wheels.
The Attleboro Fire Department has started an EMS bicycle unit that will be on duty during civic events like parades, fireworks, summer and winter downtown festivals and any other events that attract big crowds where it's hard for four-wheel ambulances to get in quickly and safely.
It will also be available to other communities, like Foxboro that might need bike units during crowded events at Gillette Stadium.
Fire Capt. Charlie Moore, the city's EMS director, started the program that certified its first eight members on Thursday after a four-day training session on their bicycles, which are official Attleboro Fire Department vehicles.
Members were trained to maneuver their bikes in tight spaces and crowds, while retaining complete control at low speeds.
It wasn't as easy as it sounds.
Moore said most of the EMS bikers couldn't navigate the obstacle course successfully on Monday, but after 32 hours of training they did it with seeming ease.
"It's been amazing what we've learned," Moore said.
The training was conducted by Deputy Chief Neil Blackington of Boston EMS, which had one of the first bicycle EMS services in the nation and now trains others from all over the country.
The Attleboro unit is one of about 10 in the state, he said.
Boston EMS bikes were among the first on the scene at the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Blackington said.
"They could go around obstacles that ambulances are hindered by," he said.
The Boston units also patrol events like the 4th of July fireworks and Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade and First Night, the city's New Year's Eve celebration, he said.
Medical training in the Attleboro unit ranges from that of an emergency medical technician to paramedic, but now they're all expert at riding mountain bikes in tight quarters for rapid responses to someone who needs medical help in a crowd.
Moore said the unit will eventually have 15 members.
To fully equip and train each member cost about $2,000, he said.