Glenwood Springs bike medics patrol large-crowd events
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — First response is just a few pedal strokes closer for anyone having a medical emergency at a local festival, concert, sporting event or other large gathering of people in Glenwood Springs.
The Glenwood Springs Fire Department debuted its new bicycle medic patrol at Strawberry Days in June, and has had a regular presence at the weekly Summer of Music Series in Two Rivers Park.
“We’ve watched the police department over the years and some of the successes they have had with putting officers on bikes,” said Glenwood Fire Chief Gary Tillotson.
“There are a lot of places where bicycles can get around more easily and more quickly than emergency vehicles,” he said. “It’s also good PR to have people out in the crowd and to be on site in case of any medical event.”
Pete Bradshaw, a battalion chief with the fire department, instigated the bike medic program. He arranged a partnership with Randy Tuggle at the Gear Exchange bike shop to provide the Surly “Fat Bike” bicycles, the ones with the big, 4-inch tires.
The bikes were equipped with compact medical packs, including a basic first-aid kit and AED (automated external defibrillator), and the new bike patrol was off and rolling.
“The fat bike frenzy has been going on for a couple of years now,” Tuggle said. “Some of the [fire department) guys have them and thought this would be a great use for them.
“It’s a very stable bike that can handle the weight of the packs in a lot of different conditions, and you can ride them year-round,” Tuggle said. “We like being involved in the community in sort of nontraditional ways, and this was a good way to give something back.”
In addition to the Summer of Music Series, which wraps up next week, the bike medics are planning to be on hand for the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon coming up in September, Tillotson said.
The mobile medics have not had to respond to any serious incidents yet, though they did have four “potential patients” at Strawberry Days, he said.
“If we do get an ambulance call, we can be the first on scene,” said Tim Lavin, a firefighter/paramedic who was patrolling last Wednesday’s concert in Two Rivers Park along with firefighter/EMT Kevin Carlson.
“Even if it’s just a scrape and someone needing a band-aid,” he said. “We can handle anything from a minor injury to a CPR in progress.”
Some venues are hard for an ambulance or fire truck to get into quickly, especially when there’s a large crowd, Carlson added.
“In many cases we can be there a lot sooner and start administering treatment while waiting for the ambulance to get there,” he said.
Lavin, who is a lieutenant with Colorado River Fire Rescue in western Garfield County and a reserve with the Glenwood Fire Department, said he would like to see the program expand to other area emergency response agencies.
Bicycle medics can also be used in other situations besides crowded events, such as trail rescues, Lavin said.
“Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to get a ranger in for a trail emergency on a bike than it is on foot,” he said.
Tillotson said the fire department is already looking at other applications for the pilot program.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership [with Gear Exchange], so a huge thanks to them,” Tillotson said. “It is kind of a new concept for us, and I don’t know of any other agencies that are doing it. So far we’re pleased with what we’ve experienced.”
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