EMS Equipment: What to Carry on Your Bike

EMS Equipment: What to Carry on Your Bike

by Marc Zingarelli, EMSCI #179/SCI #002
Circleville (OH) Fire Department
IPMBA EMS Coordinator

One of the questions most frequently asked of IPMBA EMS Cyclist Instructors (and the EMS Coordinator) is what EMS equipment to carry on the bike.  The answer is simply that that there is no single answer. 

While some departments have the staffing, support or fixed mission to equip all personnel the same way for each deployment, the rest of us may not be that lucky.  In order to determine what to carry, you have to consider many factors, the first of which is the type of event or patrol mission you are working, and what you can expect.  What that in mind, you must perform a needs assessment.  This can be simple or elaborate, but you will need to determine staffing (and licensure), the type of service (ALS or BLS), what injuries/illnesses to expect, what kind of support you will have, and the average time it will take for the patient to get to a transport vehicle. 

Consider festivals, for instance, which often hamper patient transportation.  Such events cause transport delays because we need to get the ambulance to the patient or we have to rely on other forms of transportation to get the patient out to the ambulance.  If we know it will not be easy to bring the transport and the patient together, we have to seriously consider the ALS bike.  Collecting data during events will enable you to estimate the longest time it takes to extract a patient from the crowd.  Add a cushion, and that’s how long you will need to care for your patient.  This is where two ALS bikes together shine.  Fifteen minutes worth of cardiac arrest supplies translates into a lot of oxygen and drugs for one bike but, with two ALS-equipped bikes,each rider only has to carry enough for 7-8 minutes.  Don’t have enough ALS personnel?  Partner your ALS cyclist with a BLS cyclist and have them carry the second set of panniers.  That’s why all EMS cyclists have to pass the same test!

A simple 5K run with an ambulance following behind the pack may only require a couple of BLS cyclists who are capable of identifying and responding to an emergency, assessing runners and performing CPR until the truck can come from the rear.  Don’t have enough people?  Staff the truck with one person and put a bike rack on it.  This enables the EMS cyclists to also staff the truck.

A large-scale race, such as a marathon, will present different issues.  Depending on the number of spectators and runners and the ability to get an ambulance to the patient, you may need to consider all ALS bikes or a mix of ALS and BLS bikes.  The amount of equipment you carry will depend on how long it takes you to get your patient to a transport vehicle.  Again, your BLS bikes may have to carry ALS gear if you don’t have enough ALS personnel.  As a longer, more strenuous event, the chances of runner injuries are also higher. 

Another factor to consider is how your EMS cyclists will resupply themselves.  The easier it is to resupply, the less you have to carry.  For the 5K run where the ambulance follows, plan to resupply off of the truck.  The festival is a different story.  Many departments stock a first aid tent or trailer and keep extra supplies on hand there.  This enables you to resupply your common expendables after each run, reducing the need for multiple doses/setups/expendables and saving room for items that you may need for a critical incident. 

A good example is ice packs.  During the bee season, we go through a lot of them at an event.  Without a place to resupply, I’d need to stock at least five on each bike (20 total!).  With a resupply point, we carry just one or two, leaving room for other supplies and/or reducing the weight of the load the cyclist is carrying.  The marathon will be altogether different because you may need trucks or first aid points along the route with extra supplies.

Determining what to carry on an EMS bicycle is unique to each department and, perhaps, to each mission.  That said, don’t be afraid to reach out to other departments that work similar events or have worked an event that is held in different locations.  Their experience can be invaluable to your efforts and help you achieve a positive outcome.  In short, a thorough needs assessment and careful planning can help you minimize weight while still providing maximum service. 

Marc, the founder of the Circleville Fire Department Bike Patrol, has nine years experience on bike duty.  He was certified as an IPMBA Instructor in 2006 and is one of the creators of the EMS Cyclist II Course.  He currently serves as EMS Coordinator on the IPMBA Board.  He can be reached at marc.zingarelli@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 IPMBA.  This article appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of IPMBA News. 

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