Jing Jiang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Cornell Emergency Medical Services consists of 64 unpaid volunteers.

March 13, 2019

Unsung and Unpaid: 64 EMS Volunteers Responded to Nearly 600 Calls in 2018

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Operating 24 hours a day, seven days per week, free of charge, Cornell University Emergency Medical Service is a student-run first response agency that provides emergency medical care for 911 calls, first-aid education and event standby coverage to anyone on Cornell’s campus.

In 2018 alone, CUEMS responded to 592 calls for service.

All 64 of CUEMS’s members are unpaid volunteers. Some of them, though, work the equivalent of a full-time schedule — even as much as 50 hours a week, according to Jacob Eisner ’19, director of CUEMS.

To join CUEMS, according to the membership application, the only real requirement is to have genuine interest and enthusiasm for this kind of service.

“We’re getting [paid] nothing other than twenty cents an hour for uniform costs,” Eisner told The Sun.

CUEMS volunteers typically work for four hours in the evening, but there are also shifts overnight or in between classes, according to Eisner. While on call, CUEMS members often stay in the group’s office where they train, do homework or even sleep.

According to Eisner, with a response time of under 10 minutes, CUEMS could often reach situations that take place on campus faster than Bangs Ambulance, the medical transportation company in Ithaca.

“Bangs Ambulance comes from downtown. Sometimes they’re transporting someone to the hospital across the lake, and they could get caught behind a train,” Eisner said. “It could be like a half hour before their help arrives.”
After CUEMS members arrive on the scene, they provide evaluations of the situation or treat patients at the level of an emergency medical technician. The situations they have to handle are becoming “more diverse” because of the different ages and backgrounds of the patients, Eisner said.

“We really face anything a small town would face,” Dillon Sumanthiran ’20, CUEMS director of operations, told The Sun.

In addition to serving as the first-response team, CUEMS also provides free standby coverage of campus events, which all require approval from Cornell’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, according to Sumanthiran. If there is increased potential for medical incidents or a large group of people during a campus event, local fire code and University policy mandate CUEMS to be on standby.

CUEMS further incorporates community education as one of its primary responsibilities. The organization holds weekly CPR trainings in addition to teaching basic first aid, bleed control and alcohol safety, according to Richa Parikh ’20, CUEMS community education officer. These opportunities are open to anyone affiliated with Cornell.

CUEMS has implemented these programs at no additional cost, in order to encourage bystanders to step up and respond to medical emergencies. CUEMS has also provided more tailored trainings to individual groups, like ROTC and greek life.

“We’re a resource for [the Cornell community] in a way other than just responding to calls,” Parikh said. “We’re also peers … and we want you to learn and feel comfortable with us.”

“No one calls 911 every day; when they do call, it’s usually a really bad event,” Sumanthiran said. “I think most people are comforted to know that their peers are responding to help them out and offer them a hand.”

To summon CUEMS for a medical emergency, dial 911. To contact Cornell University Police to request CUEMS for medical evaluation, dial (607) 255-1111 or simply activate any campus Blue Light emergency phone.