Sturgis emergency workers gear up for rally
STURGIS (AP) -- Emergency workers are gearing up for everything from stabbings to vehicle crashes at the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally that starts Monday in western South Dakota, the city's ambulance director said.
The Rapid City Journal reported Shawn Fischer is directing 32 emergency workers who will tend to rally-goers. Her crews are supported by medical professionals from other agencies as Sturgis' population temporarily swells from 7,000 to about 400,000.
"It's something we train all year long for," she said.
Fischer said she has seen her share of incidents in her 20-year career as a nurse and paramedic. But she says nothing can compare to the volume and variety of incidents she and others will respond to during the rally.
The rally in 2009 was especially memorable.
"It was everything. Medical calls, to motorcycle accidents, to stabbings -- it's a chance for EMTs and paramedics to see every part of their job," she said.
"We don't dread it at all," Fischer said. "I think we all look very forward to it. It's excitement for us."
Scott Lensegrav, an emergency medical technician for Sturgis Ambulance and the Rapid City Fire Department, said he has seen the pattern of motorcycle accidents change over the years.
Lensegrav has worked the rally for 12 years. He remembers a phenomenon during rally week that emergency personnel called "Black Wednesday."
On that rally day, bikers heading home after the first part of the rally would collide with bikers heading into town for the second half.
"It always seemed like we had more accidents that day," he said.
"One year, I think we had four fatal accidents in two hours," he said. "Motorcycles hitting each other all the time."
However, while motorcycle accidents often get the most attention, it's the more mundane incidents that tend to preoccupy emergency personnel.
Lensegrav estimated that more than 50 percent of call-outs are related to illnesses like dehydration and chest pains.
"You have got hundreds of thousands of people all coming in your area. You get a lot of people getting sick," he said. "Plus your regular residents who need service too."