When a medical emergency strikes, red lights typically indicate that help is on the way.
However, the newest team of medical responders with Gold Cross EMS show up in a different, more striking color.
“We picked the bright yellow so we can be seen in a crowd and we can be seen at long distances,” said Maj. Michael Willis, manager of the Gold Cross EMS Bike Team.
The uniform color also was picked to distinguish medical personnel from the county sheriff’s office bike team, Willis said.
Though the team has been around for years, it wasn’t until early this year that Willis tried a new approach, spreading the word about services provided by the bike medics.
Since then, seven paramedics and EMTs were added to the team, resulting in a total of 11 members.
And with the increased publicity, Willis’ team covered 16 events last year in Columbia, Richmond and Jefferson counties.
In Columbia County, bike teams were deployed to the Jingle Jam 10k Walk, Evans Towne Center Park grand opening, Lady Antebellum concert, Oliver Hardy Festival and Fourth of July celebration.
Recently, two bike teams rode alongside floats at the Columbia County Merchants Association’s Christmas Parade. They were on call to handle any medical problems as well as to interact with the community.
Paramedic Megan Gay, paired up with EMT Jamie Champion, responded to a medical call at the parade, arriving four minutes before an ambulance could make its way through the crowd.
That quick response time, and the lower cost associated with using a bike team versus running an ambulance, are what make the service beneficial to the public, both Gay and Willis said.
A member of the bike team can typically weave through crowds and reach a patient in less than four minutes.
“It’s also more convenient for them,” Gay said. “If they just need a bandage, we can help them out then and not have to worry about tying up an ambulance for something like that.”
A team is made up of a paramedic and an EMT, who are sent out to monitor small events. For larger crowds, two teams are used, Willis said.
Each team is equipped with bandaging supplies, an oxygen tank and an automated external defibrillator in addition to drugs for several emergency issues.
“We can handle all the emergencies that we handle in the ambulance, with the exception of transporting,” Willis said.
Most of the calls the team deals with involve falls, faints, chest pains and respiratory issues, he said.
Those who joined the team in May underwent a rigorous process that tested their patient-assessment and bicycling skills.
“Your vital signs have to be in control after doing all the strenuous stuff,” Willis said. “Then we test your ability to assess and treat a patient.”
Team members are required to complete classroom training on bike maintenance and safety, Georgia state bicycle laws and medical care, Willis said.
Expected to ride on any type of terrain, the group also practices together on their off time and complete road-training exercises throughout the year.
“That’s another perk to this,” Gay said. “You’re not only getting paid to work and help people, but you’re getting exercise, too.”