There are a few more hands helping keep people safe in Fort Collins’ Old Town during busy weekend hours.
Poudre Valley Hospital Emergency Medical Services has two medics on bicycles in Old Town to help alleviate some of the stress on police officers and ambulance crews during the area’s “party” hours, and it’s proven to be a successful new venture.
“It adds that whole other dimension of customer service to the city and downtown patrons,” said Sgt. Heather Moore, of the Fort Collins Police Services’ District 1 night policing team. “And it is in alignment with how we operate as a city — doing everything we can to provide an environment that is safe and worry-free.”
Since early June, during late-night hours Fridays and Saturdays from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., two members of PVH EMS’ Bicycle Emergency Response Team, or BERT, have been patrolling the streets of Old Town. BERT members are bicycle-trained EMTs who are able to provide medical services to areas less accessible to vehicles or hard to cover by foot. Until now, they’ve mostly assisted with large events, such as festivals, marathons and Colorado State University football games, said BERT Coordinator Blake Moyer.
“We wanted to grow this program and saw a need for their services on Friday and Saturday because of the influx of crowds and events in Old Town,” he said. “Our goal is to eliminate the number of ambulances being dispatched from the 911 system to deal with intoxicated people downtown and other incidences where more appropriate services could respond.”
The Fort Collins Police Services has six officers, along with Moore, working the Old Town area during late-night weekend hours.
“BERT has allowed us to keep the downtown safer because we are not tied up with ambulance calls or situations where someone is just in need of a caretaker,” Moore said.
In the first two weekends of operation, the BERT medics answered 25 calls that may have otherwise been 911 calls resulting in an ambulance transport. But because BERT was able to quickly get to the scene and assess the situation, only six of those calls turned into transports, Moyer said.
“A lot of the times, these calls are a general public assist call, such as a person passed out on the grass or someone in need of a sober ride home. They don’t necessarily need a 911 response, and we are able to mitigate that situation without the 911 call,” he said.
This allows ambulances to respond to more critical calls in the area instead of being tied up downtown with circumstances such as a disorderly patron.
Such was the case recently and a good example of how the BERT team is helping police, Moore said. The police responded to an intoxicated person who was refusing to go home. After only a few minutes, BERT stepped in. They were able to get the person’s parents to come and give him a ride — a 45-minute ordeal. Meanwhile, police officers were free to deal with other situations in the area.
Another time, the EMTs spotted a woman passed out alone in the grass.
“That’s a very vulnerable state for anyone to be in,” Moore said. “The benefit of BERT is that they really put more eyes in the Old Town area and are able to initiate welfare checks that may not have been attended to otherwise.”
The BERT medics carry advanced life support kits and have the capacity to manage such things as cardiac events, overdoses and IV therapy. They carry a complete line of medical and trauma equipment as well as an AED. At the beginning of their evening shift, the medics check in with the 911 dispatch and police officers, and they continue communication with the two entities the entire night, which has strengthened relations and collaboration among the three groups, Moore said.
“Overall, they’ve made us more effective, and the downtown community is getting a greater service,” she said.