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Miami-Dade Fla--EMS System on 2 Wheels

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  • Miami-Dade Fla--EMS System on 2 Wheels

    Miami Herald

    Motorcycle medics zip through traffic, react fast to wrecks
    [email protected]

    More photos

    QUICK WORK: Paramedic David Alonso attends to crash victim Alexander Garcia last week. Alonso is part of Miami-Dade's Motorcycle Emergency Response Team, the first of its kind in the country. JOSHUA PREZANT/FOR THE HERALD

    The Dolphin Expressway. Eastbound, near the Palmetto. Five o'clock in the afternoon. Traffic is crawling, even before the four-car accident on a narrow entrance ramp.

    With cars backing up for miles, fire rescue trucks struggle to reach the scene, blaring sirens and flashing lights at drivers who can't get out of the way. People injured in the accident will simply have to wait.

    Enter Miami-Dade Lt. Roman Bas and paramedic David Alonso on BMW motorcycles. They weave through traffic and reach the scene well ahead of the trucks.

    They triage the scene, provide initial first aid and call for ambulances if necessary.

    The motorcycle program, still in its infancy, is designed to improve response times to accidents on the county's congested highways and streets.

    ''In serious cases, a couple minutes can make a big difference,'' Bas said. ``We can get there, call for a helicopter right away, begin to stabilize someone, let dispatch know we need more trucks or we have an extrication.''

    The Motorcycle Emergency Response Team, or MERT, is the first of its kind in the country, Bas said. The London Fire Brigade has a similar program, as do departments in Japan, Malaysia and Italy. Seattle is considering starting one, officials there said.

    ''In London, they found their heart-attack survivability rates went up with the motorcycles,'' Bas said. The Miami-Dade motorcycles carry defibrillators so they can help heart-attack victims quickly. They will also carry oxygen canisters and limited first-aid kits.

    The accident last week didn't cause serious injuries, but the people involved appreciated the quick response anyway.

    ''With all this traffic, I was surprised, they got here really quickly,'' said Alexander Garcia, 21, sitting on the guardrail with a neck brace on, waiting for the ambulance.

    In a serious accident, those precious minutes could mean being able to save a life. The other advantage of the motorcycles' fast response is the paramedics can tell dispatchers if the call is not as serious as first reported, freeing up rescue trucks to respond to other scenes.

    The motorcycle paramedics also will work large events because they can weave through the crowds, and they might help when dignitaries visit. They will not respond to fires because they can't carry fire gear.

    BMW donated the 10 motorcycles, and Bas is working to get other equipment donated.

    ''Everything has to be reduced in size to meet the needs of the motorcycle team,'' Bas said.

    The department settled on BMWs after other motorcycle manufacturers declined to donate bikes for the pilot program. But Bas insists the BMWs are the safest bikes for his purposes because they have anti-lock brakes.

    A team of six riders is set to be up and running by October. Until then, Bas and Alonso periodically ride around the county, testing equipment and responding to accidents they hear on the radio. Both have already completed the Miami-Dade Police Department's driving course for motorcycle officers, though Bas would like to set up a course tailored to the needs of paramedics.

    ''They train for pursuit, which we don't have to do,'' he said.

    When it's not raining, the team will be available Monday through Friday during morning and afternoon rush hours.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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