Blaring sirens and flashing lights usually herald the arrival of help in a medical emergency, but this summer in Hilliard, the sound of shifting bicycle gears could accompany medics to a scene.
New Chief Jeff Warren recently established a nine-member Norwich Township Fire Department bicycle patrol, an action he announced after being promoted in March to replace the retiring Bob Kaufman.
"I saw its success in Washington Township (in Dublin) and wanted Norwich to provide something similar for our residents," Warren said. "The bike patrol is an opportunity for us to get out into the community without using only our engines and vehicles."
Warren said in addition to community outreach and public relations, the bike patrol would provide quick responses during emergencies.
"As a bike patrol, we have the mobility to respond to emergencies in a crowded area ... such as the county fair or a 5K event," he said.
Bike patrol members could also cover wooded areas and uneven terrain to help search for missing persons, Warren said.
Neighborhood patrols would be based on weather conditions and available personnel.
"It would be a matter of just being in the right place at the right time," said the bike patrol commander, Lt. Rick Warren, who is not related to the chief.
The bike patrol firefighters will carry defibrillators and other life-support systems to administer care until other medics arrive, Rick Warren said.
Rick Warren said the Hilliard Division of Police, which has an established bike patrol, assisted Norwich Township firefighters with organizing and training.
The police also donated two bicycles to the fire department, he said, and the department is in the process of acquiring two additional bicycles.
Police officer Ron Burkitt will donate his services as the department's bicycle mechanic, he said.
Because of high interest among the Norwich firefighters, a qualification process was necessary to determine the nine members of the bike patrol.
In addition to Rick Warren, firefighters chosen for the patrol are Capt. Rob Fox, Dan Buelow, Tony Campbell, Shane Gavin, Tim Keever, Dusty King, Kyle Righter and Matt Tackett.
Members were selected based on their availability to complete a 32-hour course from the International Police Mountain Bike Association and related demands, Jeff Warren said.
Bike patrol members are scheduled to participate in a community ride-along from the Hilliard-Ray Patch Family YMCA to the Heritage Trail Dog Park at 7 p.m. June 23 as part of the Pedals to Paws program.
They also will work during the Fourth of July parade and the concert and fireworks at Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park.
The Washington Township Fire Department's bike patrol in neighboring Dublin has 33 members, according to Washington Capt. J.D. Hughes.
Washington Township launched its patrol in 2001, Hughes said, with five members.
"It's great for us to get in and around where vehicles can't easily go," Hughes said. "Dublin has so many bike paths, too."
The Irish Festival and the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club are two places where the Washington Township bike patrol is active, Hughes said.
"We also patrol in the city and have been able to arrive at (residential) emergencies before our vehicles," Hughes said.