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San Francisco International Airport to launch bike medic program

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The San Francisco Fire Department is partnering with San Francisco International Aiport to deploy bike medics, much like bike police patrols, to terminals and parking areas. (Emma Marie Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco International Airport plans to launch a bike medic program as soon as next month, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

The airport is partnering with the San Francisco Fire Department to bring bike medics to airport terminals and parking areas, where they can navigate traffic better and coast through terminals to quickly reach those in need. The medics could also reduce the number of times the Fire Department has to send a fire truck or ambulance to respond to incidents, freeing up resources for other uses.

Doug Yakel, a spokesperson for SFO, said the program is meant “to increase response time to medical issues inside the terminal buildings.”

“Much like [San Francisco Police Department] patrols, personnel can respond faster inside the facility on a bike compared to driving a vehicle, parking, and entering the facility,” Yakel said.

SEE RELATED: SFO to pay $7.3 million to help lost passengers find their way

The airport will pay the Fire Department for the service, which is expected to cost $435,789 for a three-bike unit in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

“The goal is to have the program up and running by the end of March,” Yakel said.

Paramedics will ride mountain bikes and have modified Advanced Life Support gear. In addition to responding to medical emergencies, they will maintain defibrillators throughout the terminals and establish triage areas in the event of mass-casualty incidents.

Other areas of the airport, such as the Tarmac, will continue to use ambulance vehicles for response.

“We’re excited about this program and believe it will really help enhance our medical response capabilities,” Yakel said.

Los Angeles International Airport launched its own bike medic program as a pilot in October last year. The goals included improving emergency response at LAX and increasing the availability of ambulance and fire services.

The Los Angeles Fire Department also has a bike medic program, which dates back to 2004. The SFFD does not have a similar program.

Los Angeles officials said in October that most EMS incidents do not end in ambulance trips to the hospital.

“Therefore, the current model of routinely sending Fire Companies and Rescue Ambulances to these incidents is not an efficient service model,” said an Oct. 11 announcement by the LAFD.

“Cost effectiveness and mobility allow LAFD Bicycle Medic Teams to bridge the gap between foot patrol and rescue ambulances, which can be the difference between life and death in congested or crowded conditions,” the department’s website states.

There are estimated to be more than 300 paramedic bicycle teams nationwide, according to Los Angeles officials.

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