Fire department adds bikes to BERT program

By Shannon Jenkins

Sometimes ambulances are just too bulky for certain emergencies, which may require vehicles of a more sleek design.

To help address such incidents, the Henry County Fire Department's Bicycle Emergency Response Team (BERT) recently added four more Cannondale bikes to its team's fleet.

The 18-member team now has access to eight bikes, which can accommodate enough equipment to handle medical emergencies, said BERT member John Hiers.

With the exception of delivering a baby, Hiers said BERT members have equipment to handle cardiac, respiratory and diabetic emergencies and any type of injuries. Some supplies include automatic external defibrillators, oxygen and bandages. Including the medical equipment, the bikes cost about $1,600 each, complete with flashing red and blue lights and a siren.

"We can respond to any medical emergency until an ambulance can get there," he said.

The bike team is ideal for large special events, and the bike patrols will be in evidence at the Geranium Festival, Locust Grove Days and Old Stockbridge Days.

"It's very beneficial at the (Atlanta Motor Speedway)," said Capt. Danny Thompson, BERT coordinator.

"They love us out at the race track," said Hiers, who's served with the county fire department as a firefighter and paramedic for 15 years. "The place is so congested. We can go through the crowds without causing a large disruption."

The new bikes also came in handy last week after a mutual aid request from the Fayette County Fire and EMS. Henry County sent four bike medics to assist during the second leg of the Tour de Georgia, during Lance Armstrong's ride through Fayette County.

BERT was established two years ago and operates solely on donations. Thompson said there is no budget for the bike team. Hiers said the teams ride in pairs, with at least one being a paramedic and the other an emergency medical technician-intermediate. In addition to the new bikes, the fire department also received uniforms and helmets.

Donations can be made through the Henry County Fire Department's Fire Safety Education with attention to the BERT team at (770) 954-2213.