Program puts emergency responders on motorcycles, shortens response times

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Austin Emergency medical services Captains Keith Noble and James Dionizio depart early Saturday morning to provide medical services on motorcycles. Austin EMS has recently begun a new pilot program which uses medically equipped motorcycles along Interstate Highway 35 and at large city events to increase response times to medical emergencies.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Emergency medical services response times will be up to five minutes faster with a new program that puts paramedics on motorcycles.

The new pilot program uses medically equipped motorcycles along Interstate Highway 35. The bikes have been used in the past for special events, but first became available to patrols on I-35 two weeks ago. The bikes can navigate through congested traffic much better than an ambulance, said EMS spokesman Warren Hassinger.

“Motorcycles give us better access during the gridlock times of early morning and late evening,” Hassinger said. “A lot of these car crashes don’t result in any injuries at all, a lot of it is just freeing up resources and decreasing response times.”

When a 911 call is placed for a traffic accident an ambulance is dispatched to the site, but a patrolling motorcycle may be closer to the crash to give faster treatment.

Once there, the motorcycle paramedic can give immediate care to the patient and determine the severity of the injuries. They can call off the ambulance if it is only a minor accident so that ambulances can be available for a more serious call that may require patient transport, said Captain Keith Noble.

“There is always an ambulance on the way behind us; we get dispatched at the same time and normally we get there first if we’re out and about already,” Noble said.

The motorcycles are equipped with anything a paramedic would need to treat any injury or illness for up to 15 minutes, said paramedic Juan Hinojosa.

“The way we geared it up was to be able to do advanced life support care — anything from a sprained ankle to a cardiac arrest,” Hinojosa said.

Nine paramedics took a private advanced motorcycle course and a modified version of the police department’s motorcycle training to learn maneuverability on the bikes.

The program is in its infancy now, with three operable bikes and nine trained paramedics who can use them. The new program may take some getting used to for both paramedics and drivers on I-35, officials said.

“A lot of times [the public] sees us come responding with lights and sirens, and right away they think we’re the police, since they’re not used to seeing paramedics on motorcycles,” Hinojosa said.

Printed on 07/18/2011 as: Motorcycles aid quicker EMS response