Bicycle Response Team Training Now Available to EMS

by Wren Nealy, EMSCI #154/PCI #860
Cypress Creek (TX) EMS
IPMBA EMS Coordinator

As your EMS Coordinator, I want to discuss an exciting new opportunity for our EMS Cyclist members.  For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of working with a team to revamp the IPMBA Bicycle Response Team (BRT) Course.  The course is rooted in the LAPD Bicycle Rapid Response Team (BRRT) founded for the 2000 Democratic National Convention, in large part by then-IPMBA board member Don Hudson.  Mike Goetz, lead bike instructor for Seattle Police at the time, followed LAPD’s model, bringing the BRRT tactics to Seattle.  Hudson and his LAPD cohorts introduced the training to IPMBA during the 2002 IPMBA Conference in Ogden, Utah, and it has been a frequent topic at the IPMBA Conference ever since. 

The concept is simple:  use police bike units, trained in Mobile Field Force tactics, to help manage and ultimately control large crowds.  On bikes, the officers can help guide/control the movement of the crowd by using a combination of moving and static formations.  They can also rapidly respond to assist foot officers making arrests, as demonstrated by the Seattle Police BRRT unit during the May Day Riot earlier this year. 

I was first introduced to BRRT at the 2007 conference by the late, great, Mike Goetz.  As I listened to Mike describe the course, I was instantly hooked.  As a tactical medic for Cypress Creek EMS, I had worked several events in support of our State Police riot team so I was instantly intrigued with how this could be accomplished on a bike.  The next day I went out to meet Mike and his class to observe the field training exercise.  Mike explained that the class members would approach in formation and, based on the scenario, would change formations, don gas masks, and ride in formation while negotiating the various obstacles that awaited them. 

I still remember his enthusiasm as he handed me several tennis balls and said, “You’re not just going to watch, you’re going to have to earn your keep”.    

I joined several others who had volunteered to throw tennis balls at the students as they rode through the obstacles in a cloud of smoke, which is used to simulate CS gas.  

The students made their approach and masked up, the smoke was deployed and the sirens activated.  The group formed and proceeded to ride through the smoke, negotiating the obstacles that had been laid out in their path.  Then Mike gave the signal to start throwing.  The team regrouped and rode out of the simulated dangerous environment.  The exercise was a success.  I asked Mike what would happen if one of the officers was injured, and he pointed out the bike medic sitting on the sidelines.  Although this was good for the training class, this wasn’t an option for a real incident.

At the 2010 conference in Chesterfield-Saint Louis, I decided to take the course.  This was only an option to me because I am also a police cyclist.  Two officers from Saint Paul Police Department had stepped into the role of instructors.  In addition to their IPMBA BRT training, Officers Jason Bain and Tony Holte had real-world experiences to pull from, having trained hundreds of officers and participated in numerous incidents surrounding the various demonstrations during the 2008 Republican National Convention. 

I instantly saw the need to incorporate medics into this program using the same model as tactical medics working in support of SWAT teams.  Jason and Tony both agreed.  The riding skill was not above that of an IPMBA-trained EMS cyclist, and with some minor tweaks, the officers could provide some protection for the medics. 

This model provides immediate access to “Point of Wounding Care”.  Think about it.  The BRT unit is designed to work in low- to medium-risk crowd control environments, serving as a very mobile and agile Quick Reaction Force.  Because they are not wearing typical riot gear, they are replaced by a traditional Mobile Field Force when the crowd demeanor escalates.  Departments across the country have added this skill set to their bike teams to successfully manage everything from overzealous sports fans to major political events.

It only makes sense that these officers have access to medical care, without delay.  A conventional EMS response will result in delayed patient care since EMS will stage (not go in) until police can secure the incident location.  By the time EMS make their way to the patient or police move the patient out to EMS, valuable time is lost.  This directly parallels tactical medicine, in the sense that only critical life-saving interventions are performed in this hostile environment.  It is very similar to Care Under Fire, a phase of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) which is the military and law enforcement standard for combat medicine.  A priority is placed on extractions to cover and controlling life- threatening hemorrhage.  Once behind cover, a BRT Medic is likely to perform gross decontamination from unknown fluid/chemical agent exposures and treat patients for chemical agent exposure, trauma from blunt force and specialty impact munitions. 

The BRT model incorporating medics was piloted at CCEMS in 2012 and put to the test at the nation’s fourth largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  It worked far better than anything else we have used in the past and showed us how effective the bike can be in crowd management.

It was only fitting that the first official IPMBA BRT (named changed to Bicycle Response Team) course available to EMS Cyclists was offered in 2013 at the Baton Rouge conference; the place where this journey began.  Four medics from across the country participated in the first offering to EMS Cyclists.  It was easy for them to discuss how they could make use of the riding formations at typical mass gathering events to facilitate movements through the crowd.  They were trained in the use of gas masks (APR’s), chemical agents, and shown extraction techniques, often utilized by tactical medics.  They performed in scenarios that required them to conduct officer and civilian rescues as well as treat of a member of their team.  One of the best parts of this class are the exercises conducted with live role players and, yes, you guessed it, the role players throw tennis balls. 

All of the participants agreed that it is important for EMS Cyclists to have this type of training to enhance their skill sets and prepare them to work in that environment to support their law enforcement counterparts. 

I wish to thank Maureen Becker, Jason Bain, Tom Harris, Bernie Hogancamp, Tony Holte, and Mike Wear for their roles in making this a reality.  It is just one example of the many different opportunities that are available to EMS Cyclists. 

So challenge yourself to something new and exciting.  Join us in Tampa in May 2014 and learn how to bring good medicine to bad places. 

The BRT, Instructor, EMSC, and EMSCII Courses are eligible for CECBEMS credit through a partnership between IPMBA and Cypress Creek EMS.

Wren is the Director of Special Operations for Cypress Creek EMS, managing the tactical and bike medic programs.  He is a tactical paramedic, PHTLS/TCCC Instructor, and director of the Tactical Operational Medical Support training program.  He is also a reserve Lt/Asst. SWAT Commander for the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and founded the department’s first bike patrol team.  He is an EMS and Police Cyclist Instructor and serves as EMS Coordinator on the IPMBA Board.  He can be reached at emsc@ipmba.org.

© 2013 IPMBA.  This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of IPMBA News.

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