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GEMS has many facets and bikes are one of the most important

Aug 08, 2019 04:23PM ● By Jan Sailors
One of the GEMS BERT bikes ready for action. 
Photo by Alan Hodge

Most folks associate Gaston County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS) with ambulances moving swiftly down the road to someone’s aid. However, GEMS has several other layers to its organization and the bicycle squadron- known as Bicycle Emergency Rescue Team or BERT- is one of the most important. 

GEMS has used bikes in a variety of roles for a long time.

“We got our first bicycles back in 1997,” said GEMS Asst Operations Supervisor Capt. Lee Cherry. “At that time the bicycle team had 24 members. We are the longest acting team that GEMS has.”

According to Cherry, the cycle group currently has between 20-25 folks. They volunteer for the bike duty and come from several GEMS classifications.

“Members include EMT, paramedics, and our Explorer program which is for people 15-21 years old,” Cherry said. “Anyone who likes to ride bikes and help people can join the team.”

For Explorer members, GEMS provides training in first aid, haz-mat, blood borne pathogens, and Bicycle Rescue Team.

GEMS currently has ten bikes ready for action. The bikes are housed in a trailer that can be towed to wherever they are needed. Each bike is equipped with saddlebags containing Advanced Life Support (ALS) equipment, Benadryl and Epipens for emergency allergic reactions from things such as bee stings, and other first aid supplies. 

‘The purpose of the bike team is to stabilize patients until the truck arrives,” Cherry said.

In addition to their emergency rescue training, GEMS riders are tough.

“We do training rides on trails at places like Poston Park, Rocky Branch Park, and the Carolina Thread Trail,” said Cherry. “One training ride is an eight mile loop from Lineberger Park to Robinwood Rd. on the greenway with the goal of completing the course in an hour.”

So, just exactly where are the bike team members deployed and what do they do?

“We attend special events such as festivals, concerts and runs,” Cherry said. 

During running events, bike team members basically “circle the pack” keeping an eye on participants. Riders can log ten or fifteen miles escorting runners.

“At one running event we responded to several cardiac arrests,” said Cherry. 

The GEMS bike team also goes to schools where it takes part in exhibitions and bike rodeos.

For more information on the GEMS bicycle program call 704-866-3210.