Donation to rescue squad helps mobility

$8,500 to go to B-CC Bicycle Emergency Response Team

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2006

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad became a bit more mobile last week, receiving donations for several new bicycles.

The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary Club, the Town of Chevy Chase and Jane Fairweather Real Estate teamed up to donate $8,500 to the rescue squad for its Bicycle Emergency Response Team during the Rotary’s Jan. 17 meeting.

The money will be used to upgrade the squad’s bikes, which have become essential tools in responding to emergencies in the increasingly urban community of Bethesda.

‘‘Bethesda’s changed so much over the years,” said John Bowis, president of the B-CC Rotary Club Foundation. ‘‘It’s really gone from a suburban area to an urban area. Just as you’ve seen the police department move to a bicycle patrol, the B-CC Rescue Squad has had to do the same thing because we have a number of large events where they can’t get the big trucks through.”

The volunteer B-CC Rescue Squad responds to emergencies in the communities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase and parts of Upper Northwest Washington, D.C.

The rescue squad initially approached the Rotary with a request for donations of $3,000 to purchase four to six bikes, Bowis said. Chevy Chase Town Council member Scott Orbach, a member of the Rotary, convinced the council to contribute $2,500. Jane Fairweather, also a member of the B-CC Rotary, matched the town’s donation.

A spokesperson from the B-CC Rescue Squad was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the donations.

Chevy Chase Mayor William H. Hudnut III, who as Indianapolis mayor for 16 years was a strong proponent of both horse and bicycle mounted police, said the unanimous vote to donate the money was an easy decision.

‘‘I think a more mobile force on bicycles is probably more valuable than guys on their feet,” Hudnut said. ‘‘I think it’s just an extension of our effort to provide for the public safety.”

Both Hudnut and Orbach said the town’s walking-distance proximity to downtown Bethesda’s numerous street festival events makes the need for the bicycles that much greater.

‘‘Many of our town residents attend these events that are very, very crowded,” Orbach said. ‘‘And having the bicycles and the ability to respond quickly is a very valuable service which we hope we’ll never need.”

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services employs bicycles at similar events around the county, spokesman Pete Piringer said.

‘‘They’re very forward thinking in their vision,” Piringer said of the B-CC Rescue Squad’s bike team. ‘‘It gives them a whole new level of mobility.”

Having bicycle-mounted emergency responders stationed at strategic locations during major events, like Taste of Bethesda or the PGA Tour’s Booz Allen Classic golf tournament makes the entire service more efficient, Piringer said.

‘‘You can really be proactive,” he said. ‘‘Bring in some resources before you have big problem. You’re out and about and you get a feel for the event.... It saves the wear and tear on the rest of the service.”