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Emergency Help on Two Wheels is on the Way

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DURHAM — Emergencies happen everywhere. They happen in homes, in crowded places like malls and on roads. In some cases, two wheels are better than four when emergency crews respond.

It is a new idea in the Triangle area, but it is something that is popping up all over the country. Bicycles are being used to respond to emergencies in crowded areas or areas that are tough to drive to.

Triangle police departments and the Chapel Hill Fire Department use bikes. Now, Durham County EMS is in on the act.

When members of Durham County's new EMS Bike Response Team take a ride, they take a lot with them.

"The equipment is split up. We carry some of the same stuff that we normally carry on the trucks just like you would find on any ambulance," said team member Dawn White.

And, it is just like an ambulance -- only with two wheels. There is even a lightweight, compact cardiac monitor and defibrillator right under the seat.

While there is flashy equipment, and it looks like fun, it is serious emergency response business.

Durham County is joining a growing list of departments nationwide that are getting into the bike response business. A bike can work through the crowd better than an ambulance at crowded public events.

The bike team has 17 members. Durham County plans to use the bikes atDurham Bullsgames,Dukefootball games and outdoor festivals like Festival On The Eno.

But the spark that got the whole two-wheeled project going was the upcoming 1999 World Special Olympic Games.

"That was one of the reasons we looked at getting the bike team going," said White. "We're going to have a large number of people. They're estimating over a million people with the crowd and the participants. We need a way to get out there, and this is the perfect way to do it."

The idea of the bikes is to get to people fast in areas that are tough to get to. About the only thing they cannot do is transport the patient.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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