Delaware County EMS has added a new facet to its lineup of services to help educate and engage local residents on a more personal level.
The Cycle Response Unit made its debut Aug. 22 during the Sunbury Sizzle and Sounds festival and also worked the Delaware County Fair, according to Administrative Capt. Aaron Jennings.
Jennings noted that the Delaware County EMS Cycle Response Unit is not intended to be part of the agency’s primary emergency medical response function, but will provide safety education and serve in a public relations capacity for EMS at local events.
“It allows us to get out and talk to people,” said Jennings, who is the unit leader. “Our plan is to use (the unit) for trick or treat and other events in the different communities, just to get out and talk about bicycle helmet safety and other issues and educate people about EMS and what we do.”
Jennings said the unit can provide basic emergency medical care, which members did during the county fair. Each bike is equipped with an emergency kit that includes an automated external defibrillator and basic medical supplies to provide initial advanced life support.
“(The unit’s work at the fair) was incredibly successful,” said Jennings. “It just really proved the importance of having something like this. We quickly responded to numerous medical emergencies and we were the first ones on the scene. We worked closely with law enforcement throughout the fair.”
Jennings, who joined Delaware County EMS in May of this year after a 13-year career with the Delaware City Fire Department, said Lt. Glen Keating did the vast majority of the legwork laying the foundation for the Cycle Response Unit. Keating researched other departments with bike units to understand how they operated and what purposes they served.
Keating said the unit includes current county EMS employees who volunteered to be part of the team. There are 12 members of the Cycle Response Unit. Keating, who has been with Delaware County EMS for eight years, said half of the team members recently completed specialized training with the International Police Mountain Bike Association.
“That’s pretty much the gold standard when it comes to training in public safety in regards to cycling,” he said. “They do a lot of research and write a lot of the best practices. There’s a lot of skills that they teach you that some of us didn’t know, myself included. They’re valuable skills that we need to learn to operate the bikes safely and efficiently so that we can serve the people and do what we’re tasked to do on the bikes.”
Keating said Officer Bob Hatcher from the Delaware City Police Department is the past president of the International Police Mountain Bike Association and heads up the police department’s 14-member Mountain Bike Patrol. He also provides training courses.
“He offers a great class,” Keating said. “We’re going to have the rest of our group take that class upcoming in the spring.”
Paramedics Shelly Gannon and Chelsea Nelson said they decided to join the unit because of the pubic relations and education component, which allows them to interact with local residents.
“I love talking to people. I love being around people,” said Gannon, who has been with Delaware County EMS for 11 years. “I enjoy being able to provide education about safety and using bike helmets.”
“At the fair, we were riding around and were so approachable to be able talk to people about Delaware County EMS,” said Nelson, a member of EMS for five and a half years.
Jennings said one of the major benefits of having EMS personnel on bicycles is the ease with which they can maneuver in and out and tight spaces at various events.
“We’ll use the bikes at large events where you have big groups of people and you can’t easily get a truck in there,” he said. “The bikes are a lot safer to maneuver around people. It’s a great compliment to the services we already have available.”
Editor’s Note: This article originally was written in Nov. 2015.