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CFD’s Emergency Medical Service Bicycle Teams

November 1, 2017


Medical emergencies are one of the most common crises that building operators will experience. Well trained staff members are taught to meet the Chicago Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services responders in the lobby and to escort them to the incident floor. An EMS response to a medical call in a high-rise building results in the dispatching of several pieces of equipment including an ambulance and a fire truck.

But under a pilot program, CFD is using as many as 7 two person bicycle teams to respond to calls for emergency medical service in the Central Business District. The teams are deployed between 8 and 12 hours daily and respond to 15-30 calls per day. While they have been commonly used at special events, parades, concerts, and lakefront beaches during the summer, under the pilot program they are now responding to EMS calls at residences and commercial office buildings. The greatest advantages of the bike teams are to reduce the time that it takes for aid to arrive, and in some cases eliminate the need for ambulance and fire truck.

Between the two bikes that make up a team, paramedics have all of the same equipment that an ambulance carries. With the exception of transporting patients, the bike teams can effectively provide the same medical response as personnel on an ambulance. However, with the ability to circumvent downtown traffic congestion, the bike teams frequently have shorter response times than ambulances. By arriving and being able to administer aid sooner, the bike teams are improving survival rates in serious medical emergencies. In cases where the medical emergency is not life threatening and transport is not needed, the bike teams may handle the entire incident, reducing the need for trucks and ambulances to respond and eliminating noise and traffic issues that responses bring.

While it might be a surprise to see an EMS bike team respond to a medical emergency call, building personnel should meet the paramedics and escort them to the incident just as they would in any medical emergency. The bikes which carry all of the necessary equipment will fit in most passenger elevators. Because of the equipment and supplies that that carry, the bikes cannot be left unattended by the EMS personnel. In cases where the bike teams arrive on the scene first but a truck and ambulance is also responding, building personnel should be prepared to meet a second response team and escort them to the incident.