Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 1:48 p.m.
Sam Scheller, a part-time paramedic with North Las Vegas-based MedicWest Ambulance, has enhanced emergency medical services in Southern Nevada by fine-tuning an existing program that fell short of its life-saving potential.
Scheller is responsible for the implementation of MedicWest’s Cycle Emergency Response Team, or C.E.R.T. It’s a squad of specially trained paramedics who rely on tricked-out mountain bikes to provide rapid response to emergencies during large-scale community, cultural and athletic events where ambulance access may be limited. Since C.E.R.T. was launched about a year and a half ago, Scheller said the program has been directly responsible for saving two lives, both at NASCAR events at the Las Vegas Speedway.
“On two separate occasions, we had two individuals who had no pulse, and our team showed up before anyone else and saved those individuals,” Scheller said, adding that C.E.R.T. can shave as much as 10 minutes off an emergency response time to a stricken spectator. “We can weave through barriers and get around crowds and obstacles that would delay an ambulance or even one of our golf carts.”
Besides NASCAR, the bicycle units have been called into action during National Night Out and the PGA Golf Tournament at TPC Summerlin.
A self-described ski bum, Scheller is no stranger to danger, having served on ski patrol at Mt. Charleston, where he still volunteers. In fact, as a high school senior – he graduated in 2005 – Scheller completed EMT training in order to work on the mountain, later receiving his intermediate certification. In need of a summer job after graduation, he came onboard with MedicWest in the supply division in 2005, and graduated from paramedic school in 2008.
Scheller, who also runs a technical support side business for Apple computers as well as a video production company, said MedicWest previously had a provisional cycling program in place, but there was clearly room for improvement.
“We had bicycles but they were shoved in a corner somewhere and pulled out for events, and after a couple of years I came in and said we need to have an actual program because the bike teams are being used more often,” said Scheller, who researched the idea and wrote a proposal that included the purchase of brand new mountain bikes as well as the implementation of a training program for C.E.R.T. paramedics. “We now have four primary bikes – and the four old ones if we need them – that are outfitted with specialized bike packs designed for EMS use. We also have a training program because EMS bicycling is different from regular cycling.”