While Slope Day in its modern incarnation started in 2003, Cornell has had a springtime, year-end festival in one form or another for over a century. This year is no different, and this Wednesday, May 8, students will flock to the slope for headliner Steve Aoki.
“Given the very popular reputation of this year’s headliner, we are expecting larger crowds than in [years] past, so extra resources have been added to ensure we are prepared for any emergencies should they occur,” Dillon Sumanthiran ’19, director of operations and crew chief at Cornell University Emergency Medical Service, told The Sun in an email.
Different offices and departments across campus have been working to properly manage the large number of students on and off the slope and to ensure that correct safety precautions are taken.
The staff at the department of Environmental Health and Safety have been coordinating the safety and support services that ensure the day runs smoothly. Many other campus and community partners, including Cornell Health, Cornell Police and CUEMS have collaborated with EHS to develop operational, safety, medical and contingency plans.
“In conjunction with our campus partners, under the guidance of university’s Office of Emergency Management, CUPD has been working to make sure that our plan compliments the university plan, and that all anticipated aspects of the festival have been discussed and planned for,” Sgt. Anthony Piedigrossi of Cornell Police said in an email to The Sun.
Each year, EHS facilitates a “coordination center” where representatives from those departments and agencies can share information, coordinate operations and make decisions. According to Dan Maas ‘87, an emergency manager with the Office of Emergency Management, this helps to ensure that “decisions are made in a collaborative manner and problems are quickly and efficiently resolved.”
EHS staff will be alongside Cornell Police on the slope, monitoring for safety issues.
“Our staff enjoys being out there to support this end of year celebration, and it is a fun day for us too,” Maas said. “We want to see everyone have fun in a safe and responsible manner.”
The EHS staff will also be responsible for sending students to Cornell Health, if necessary. According to Cornell Health, the opening of its new facility last year has allowed it to concurrently provide care services to festival injuries and illnesses while maintaining usual medical and mental health services.
“Our health care providers prepare for Slope Day throughout the year by ensuring clinical staff are equipped to deliver coordinated, collaborative, holistic and high-quality care for students,” Anne Jones ’04, Cornell Health medical director, said in an email to The Sun.
According to Jones, common injuries during Slope Day include the routine sprains, strains and sunburns — but also more severe cases, like extreme intoxication or complications from other drug ingestion.
“These cases require careful decision-making in triage and diagnosis, and implementation of treatment protocols to keep patients safe and help them recover from their illnesses as quickly and smoothly as possible,” Jones said.
Although Cornell Health will serve as a resource throughout the day, CUEMS will be the primary medical response agency for any emergency medical calls on campus — including those on the slope — and will also be staffing a First Aid Tent, according to Sumanthiran.
The majority of the CUEMS crews will be working on foot treating injuries on the slope, while others will staff road units to receive calls outside of Slope Day festivities.
“We have planned to have about 35 of our providers working on this day, all of whom are volunteering their time on this day without pay,” Sumanthiran said.
Last year, lightning and thunder brought an abrupt end to Slope Day 2018 when warning sirens blared during the headliner’s set and thousands of students were evacuated from the slope. To account for potentially inclement weather during the festival, this year’s severe weather plan has been updated.
“We have implemented improvements to some of our on-site communications and made some adjustments to the evacuation and sheltering plans,” Maas said. “We made changes to some of the pre-identified shelter facilities, adjusted shelter staffing assignments, and clarified roles and responsibilities for shelter staff.”
According to Sumanthiran, preparation for Slope Day began months ago, as it “involves a massive undertaking of planning and resources,” in an effort to ensure that the overall emergency infrastructure for the day is planned well.
Of course, the overall goal is to ensure that students are able to have a fun and safe day.
“We are here for all students, without judgement, and with compassion, empathy and privacy, to ensure all are safe and cared for holistically,” said Jones. “We hope you can find a way to celebrate the well-deserved end of semester in the way that is best for you, while also staying safe and healthy.”
For more information on Slope Day safety resources, visit the Cornell Health webpage for Slope Day.