Bartow, FL -- You've probably seen police riding those rugged mountain bikes before. But in Polk County, the Fire Rescue department has a program where they now have 10 EMT's ready to ride, and are rapidly expanding what was a test program.
The bikes are able to maneuver into areas where ambulances cannot.
Sometimes it saves a few minutes. Perhaps even a few seconds. But that can be the difference between life and death.
It didn't take long for Polk Fire Rescue to declare its bike program a success. At a recent event, they got through the crowd and to a heart attack victim before the 911 caller could even hang up.
"Kind of pays for itself right there," said Mike Lunsford who heads the bike program.
Right now it's a team of 10, soon to be 15.
Each bicycle is equipped with 30 pounds of life-saving gear including portable defibrillators, oxygen, re-hydrating liquids and life-saving medications.
"It makes a huge difference," said Lunsford, "That's our main goal. We want to get people there as soon as possible."
Residents say they like the concept, especially since Polk County hosts plenty of crowded events like holiday parades and Sun n' Fun.
"Might pose even more of a danger to have a big truck trying to get through there to someone who's already hurt," said Polk resident Rebecca Smith.
Shawn O'Brien agreed.
"Probably save money. Quick response time," he said.
The bikes, each costing about a $1,000, could also be deployed at sporting events including high school football games.
In Pinellas County Friday night, concerned parents waited anxiously for ambulance personnel to finally work their way through the crowd when a young player was knocked unconscious.
"Ten minutes for an ambulance to get into these events even though we have those ambulances staged on property," said Lunsford, "And these guys are there in 45 seconds to a minute."
There's another innovation underway. The bike patrol's two-way radios have a GPS embedded in them.
That means dispatchers can monitor where these bikes are at any given time. The closest crew can then be sent to the person in distress as quickly as possible.
So far, Polk County Fire Rescue is the only Bay area agency to make the move from four wheels to two.
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