Bike training for medics at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Mike Lafo, left, Nicole Cherry and Mike Gonyaw practice tight turns on their bicycles during the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., EMS Bike Team training June 30, 2011.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., July 8, 2011 -- Joint Base Lewis-McChord volunteer firefighter/paramedics might argue the saying, “It’s as easy as riding a bike.”

While vendors were busy setting up during the days leading up to Freedom Fest, a team of firefighter/paramedics learned -- or relearned -- how to ride a bike.

“It’s not just riding a bicycle,” volunteer firefighter/paramedic Nicole Cherry said. “It’s riding a bicycle fully loaded.”

The firefighter/paramedics launched “Medics on Bikes” July 4. Two teams of two medics patrolled Freedom Fest on bicycles, each equipped with 40 pounds of medical supplies.

“Most of the equipment we carry on our trucks, we try to get as much as we can on our bikes,” Cherry said. “It’s not going to be a full-blown aid unit, but we are able to do more than just your basic first aid.”

Medics on bikes will work a number of special events on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

The team has an all-terrain vehicle that can be driven on the grass but is difficult to navigate through crowds.

The mobility of two wheels instead of four allows team members to have a quicker response to 9-1-1 calls and provide medical assistance for things like allergic reactions, asthma and heat and cold exhaustion.

“You figure Madigan’s ambulance has a three-to-five minute response time,” medic Chris Rhude said.

“We’ll have an aid table set up, but when you have medics and emergency responders strategically placed on bikes throughout a crowd of 1,000, you can be there within a minute or so.”

But to navigate through a crowd of 1,000 safely, the medics had to go through an eight-hour orientation course with Pierce County Transit security officer Bill Mack.

Mack had the team go through obstacle courses to enhance their slow-speed skills, weaving in and out of cones, and ride around in a 10-foot box made up of cones with multiple riders inside.

Mack familiarized them with their bikes and instructed them in hand and arm signals and road riding.

“At the beginning of the day they couldn’t go through the course without hitting a cone and falling,” Mack said. “By the end of the hour they were able to cruise through the obstacle course.”

While some of the medics who commute to work on bicycles took to the training course pretty quickly, there were some who had not been on a bike in up to 18 years.

But after completing the course the team had the confidence to ride out among Freedom Fest crowds.

“The training was extremely helpful,” Cherry said. “We didn’t realize how slow we actually had to ride until we got out (at Freedom Fest).”

Cherry spearheaded the program last year and went through the long process of purchasing bikes and getting the equipment needed to outfit the team from head to toe. The medics are dressed in red and black uniforms.

Once the program gets going, the team plans to teach bike safety to children.

Page last updated Fri July 8th, 2011 at 08:01