September 24, 2008

Student EMS Group Becomes University-Recognized Org.

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The echoes of emergency sirens permeate the air as a squadron of uniformed students descends upon the scene — a Cornell student vomiting in a dorm room lounge. Moving quickly, they hook him up to an oxygen tank to ensure that he is able to breathe, while they wait for the ambulance to come and rush him to the hospital. He is eventually treated for alcohol poisoning. 
Such is a typical weekend night for Cornell University Emergency Medical Services. In recognition of their services to the University, CUEMS was recently approved to become a University affiliated organization. Its previous designation as an independent organization did not allow the group to represent itself as a unit or an agent of the University. 
The new categorization also signifies that the University recognizes that CUEMS needs structural support and oversight. According to the Cornell Student Activities Office’s website, University-affiliated organizations are responsible for sponsoring, “activities that fully relate to the education, research and community-service mission of the University and to the goals or objectives of the University department or unit to which they are affiliated.” 
According to their website, CUEMS serves Cornell students, graduate students, faculty, staff, visitors and their children and families. The team responds to all 911 calls for medical assistance and evaluation twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week during the academic year.  
With its new status as a University organization, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety now oversees CUEMS and shares a building with the organization. Along with this change, CUEMS expects a second truck to become available, allowing them to take on more calls and provide medical standby for additional events.  [img_assist|nid=32047|title=Saving lives|desc=CUEMS, pictured here behind a rescue vehicle, recently became recognized by the University.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
According to Jordan Perlman ’10, treasurer of CUEMS, many groups sponsoring events typically request the presence of CUEMS; however, the groups sometimes underestimate how long they will actually need CUEMS’ services. With the addition of the second truck, CUEMS will now be able to staff another crew to handle both primary and secondary responses.   
Ryan O’Halloran ’09, director of the program, said, “The second truck will enable us to provide a second vehicle to enhance our ability to provide standby coverage for multiple events as well as have an additional vehicle for second and third simultaneous calls on campus.” 
This expanded service and University affiliation is “absolutely needed,” according to Deborah Lewis, alcohol projects coordinator for Gannett Health Services.   
“[CUEMS] is a wonderful service for campus,” she said. “They are our first responders and on the scene so quickly.” 
O’Holloran explained that CUEMS is the first EMS agency at the Basic Life Support level to respond to a call, after which Advanced Life Support, usually Bangs Ambulance, arrives on the scene to provide transport or additional care. 
According to O’Halloran, the call volume for CUEMS has risen 22 percent over the past year. In fact, according to Lewis, the number of calls to CUEMS has almost doubled in number since 2001.  However, this increase has occurred not because students are drinking more, but rather because they are more aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning and they are more willing to call for help. 
O’Halloran also explained that most of the increase in call volume can be attributed to the successful education programs in the dorms and around campus. 
“As we continue to educate students about alcohol poisoning, there will be more calls, and there will be more need for CUEMS services,” Lewis said.  
Furthermore, CUEMS handles such a significant call volume because of the sheer number of people on Cornell’s campus. Most calls CUEMS receives are not alcohol-related, but are for minor traumatic injuries. 
O’Halloran explained, “We have 600-650 calls per year because there are 13,000 undergrads. During the day, we have 40,000 people at Cornell and there is a lot of potential for calls.” 
CUEMS also has a particular interest in the development of the safe ride initiative in order to keep students safe at night.  
“We are 100 percent in favor of [the program],” O’Halloran said. “You cross over two large bridges getting from Collegetown to North [Campus] that lie over large bodies of water, so any sort of system that gets people home more safely is a step in the right direction.” 
Though the volume of calls will most likely increase for CUEMS if a safe ride driver believes that a student is dangerously intoxicated, O’Halloran said that, “it’s always a good thing to make sure they’re okay.” 
“The most dangerous time [during a night out] is when people leave the party and go home,” he said. 
O’Halloran does not believe that the safe ride initiative will increase high-risk drinking habits.  On the contrary, he explained, “People are going to need the service, regardless of whether we have it. It doesn’t imply people will get more intoxicated. I think it’ll speak for itself.”