By Alexandra Seltzer, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, September 13, 2013
While watching the Boston Marathon bombing coverage months ago, some Palm Beach County Fire Rescue volunteers thought if such a tragedy happened here, how could they reach the victims quicker?
They knew how difficult it can be to quickly maneuver their rescue trucks or UTVs through large crowds at the numerous festivals and events in the area.
Then, a brilliant idea — someone recommended Emergency Medical Service bicycles where the volunteer paramedics would be equipped with backpacks holding emergency treatment tools.
“It would just give us that mobility that we didn’t have,” volunteer Chief Kevin Rattey said. “It was more for us to be able to do our work a little easier, but the application on them is whatever your imagination is. They’re just so practical for what you can do.”
The volunteer station, made up of 110 men and women, will be debuting their EMS bikes today at the Jeff Annas Memorial Firefighters 5K in Wellington. They will be riding behind the runners, giving them fast access in case one of the participants feels ill or suffers something more serious.
While the backpacks don’t hold tubes or IVs, they will hold the such basics as bandages, cold packs, slings, burn treatment products, insect bite treatment products, alcohol wipes and also an AED for heart attacks.
While a first for county fire rescue, other surrounding agencies, including Palm Beach Gardens fire rescue, have used the bikes at special events for years.
Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue Chief Keith Bryer says: “You can get in and out of the crowds easily. Where there’s a lot of crowds and you can’t get a vehicle back there you can get somebody back there and stabilize them.”
Last year, at an event at Commons Park in Royal Palm Beach, a man needed quick medical attention, but the four-wheel utility vehicles they had made it hard to navigate through the area quickly.
The CEOs at Palms West and Bethesda Health hospital system were on board as well — the money for the four bikes came from them.
The volunteer battalion, on Hagen Ranch Road in Delray Beach, recently sent out a mail campaign to all hospitals in the county and to those who have donated money in the past.
Palms West Hospital and Bethesda each gave enough money for two bikes, which cost about $700 each. Rattey said four is a good amount, but six would be best. With the lights and sirens on the bikes, each Fuji Code 1 mountain bike ended up costing about $750.
“We have a mutual community-serving mission, and we felt like this was a good thing and we wanted to support the fire rescue in their efforts,” said Roger Kirk, CEO of the Bethesda Health hospital system. The hospital donated $1,500.
“We work very closely with EMS, obviously their missions and our missions are aligned,” he said.
Rattey, chief of the volunteer battalion for seven years, says they can also be used during other emergencies, such as hurricanes. An EMS biker can get through a road that hasn’t been cleared of debris and start treatment of patients before a road is even cleared.
“It’s almost impossible not to get anywhere by bike,” Rattey said. “We’re kind of kicking ourselves, why didn’t we use these a couple years back?”