IPMBA and EMS Cycling

by Tom Harris, EMSCI #861T-B/PCI #030T-B
East Baton Rouge (LA) EMS
IPMBA Vice President

When I took my first IPMBA Course in 1996 – as an EMS cyclist taking the Police Cyclist Course under the watchful eye of Steve Jackson – little did I know how much I would become involved with IPMBA.   I took the Police Cyclist Instructor Development Course (the precursor to the Instructor Course) at the 1999 Conference in Chicago.  I lead the effort to host the 2007 IPMBA Conference in Baton Rouge, becoming the first EMS agency to do so and aging a few extra years in the process.  I became an Instructor Trainer in 2009 at the conference in Albuquerque. 

For several years, I was approached by board members to run for the board, but I could always find a reason (right or wrong; mostly wrong) not to do so.  In 2010, after conversations with some trusted IPMBA friends and mentors – Dave Hildebrand, Tom Woods, Kirby Beck and Bernie Hogancamp – I applied for the board and was elected in 2010 at the conference in Saint Louis.  Having successfully hosted an IPMBA Conference, I was promptly elected to the position of Conference Coordinator and served in that capacity for six years.  After a year as the EMS Coordinator, I was elected to the position of Vice President at the 2017 Conference in Delaware, Ohio. 

Where and what is all this leading up to, you may ask?  Well, it is very simple. In the early days, IPMBA was primarily a group of police cyclists with very little – if any – EMS involvement.  Over the years, EMS cycling has grown into a very specialized and important part of IPMBA, with nearly 500 current members and more than 70 active instructors.  EMS has been represented on the IPMBA Board since 2000, when Ed Brown was elected to the board, and Jim Bowell was the first EMS Cyclist to serve as Board President (2002-2008).  Today, there are three EMS Cyclists on the board:  Wren Nealy, President; myself, Vice President; and Brian Gillman, Conference Coordinator.  The EMS Coordinator position on the board is currently open, so if you are an EMSCI, start thinking about the June elections. 

EMS cycling has been around since WWII with the advent of bicycle-powered ambulances.  The modern era of EMS bike teams in the US began in the 80’s and 90’s, with Denver Health being the one of the first “official” bike teams formed.  Today, it is estimated that at least 500 agencies across the country deploy EMS personnel on bikes.  Most are part-time, event-based teams, but a few operate on a full-time basis.  If you would like to find out more on the history of EMS cycling, please visit:  http://ipmba.org/images/uploads/A_Brief_History_of_EMS_Cycling_201309.pdf

In 2015, I wrote an article for the IPMBA News entitled “IPMBA Needs You”.  IPMBA needs more involvement from its EMS members if we are to continue to increase and improve EMS cycling through our programs and conferences.  We have come a long way since the days that EMS Cyclists had no choice but to take a Police Cyclist Course if they wanted training.  We have an EMS Cyclist Course, a level two course (PESC II) that incorporates EMS, and a Bicycle Response Team (BRT) curriculum that has been written to incorporate embedded EMS personnel.  We’re about to publish an EMS Bike Team Model Policy based on input from our EMS Committee members.  But we can’t stop there.     

As with all things in life and public safety, changes are inevitable, and we need to try to stay on top of them.  EMS has enjoyed many changes, like the introduction of lighter, smaller medical/trauma equipment.  We old guys can remember splitting a LifePak 5 in half and carrying it in each side of the panniers.  Lighter equipment has resulted in more options for carrying the equipment, like using a combination of panniers and backpacks (which we addressed in a position paper in 2014).  These changes and more will be incorporated in the next edition of the Complete Guide to Public Safety Cycling and the Instructor ToolKit (ITK), a project we hope to launch in 2018.  We are also redefining the public safety bicycle and refining the new, compressed conference format. 

My challenge to you – the IPMBA EMS membership – is to become more involved and active in “your” organization.   If you are an instructor, put in to teach at the conferences and develop workshops.  If you are a member – please continue to attend the conferences, bring some new friends along and spread the word about the excellent opportunities and classes that are available at the conferences. 

To apply for the IPMBA board, you must be both an active member and a current instructor.  If you are interested in applying, please email your resume’ and a letter of intent to Maureen at IPMBA (maureen@ipmba.org).   Elections will be held at the IPMBA Conference, June 4-9, 2018, in Saint Louis.  This is your chance to help to shape the future of EMS Cycling and continue to keep IPMBA as the best public safety cyclist training organization for years to come.  We’re always looking for new ideas and a fresh perspective. 

Let’s continue to strive to improve our organization and provide the best public safety cyclist training in the world.   As I said earlier in this article and in 2015, “IPMBA NEEDS YOU!”  

Tom is currently the Special Operations Supervisor for East Baton Rouge Parish EMS.  He is responsible for all Special Teams, including the bike and tactical medic programs.  Tom has also been a Deputy for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department since 2005.  He is assigned to the Special Operations Division and serves as a member of the Special Response Team and Marine Division.  Tom has been an IPMBA member since 1996 and an Instructor since 1999.  In 2009, he obtained his IT status.  He has served as a member of the board since 2010 and currently holds the position of Vice President. Tom hosted the 2007 conference and co-hosted the 2013 conference in Baton Rouge.  He can be reached at tharris@brgov.com

(c) 2017 IPMBA.  This article appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of IPMBA News.

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