On call with EMeRG

On a quiet night for the Emergency Medical Response Group, three team members left their office at the Marvin Center parking garage to answer their first and only call of the evening Friday.

At 3:45 a.m., two well-dressed, intoxicated male students attempted to talk their way out of University Police questioning about their actions during the evening. The two male students allegedly started an argument with a taxi driver across the street from the Marvin Center before outside help was summoned.

“We’re usually all over campus and we rarely have a night with just one call,” said senior Kelly Schirmer, EMeRG crew chief for the night shift. “This is really unusual.” She said there are usually about four to five calls a night.

EMeRG, GW’s 24-hour emergency response service, was started in 1996 and has more than 60 volunteer members. All students must be certified Emergency Medical Technician-Basics, a rank they can achieve either through prior certification or through a GW course. They must also complete an additional University-sponsored course.

Members often perform CPR, splint broken bones, stabilize patients on backboards and use ambulance equipment.

Friday’s response team first checked the two students’ full set of “vital signs,” including blood pressure and pulse rate, “so we knew exactly what we’re dealing with,” Schirmer said.

The patients had to try to walk a straight line to demonstrate their levels of intoxication.

“Most patients are 100 percent cooperative; they realize that we’re here to help and nothing else,” Schirmer said.

After about 15 minutes of filling out forms and attempting to walk a straight line, the students at the H Street scene were handed over to UPD for questioning.

Although students in unstable condition are immediately rushed to the GW Hospital, the two students returned to their residence halls at the end of the night.

“In this case we found that there was no reason why (the students) couldn’t go home,” freshman EMeRG member Marc Berenson said. “Now comes the fun part – paperwork.”

After each call EMeRG members must record it in their call log and fill out a patient care report, which takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Schirmer said most calls come in between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

“We definitely work a lot,” said Schirmer, adding that crew chiefs must put in at least 48 hours per month but usually end up working more than 200 hours each month.

“We’ll usually get a really interesting call at around 6 a.m. We get everything at that time – seizures, people passed out on the street,” Schirmer said.

When a call comes in, UPD sends a radio message to the EMeRG office before a loud tone sound.

“After a while, the more experienced members’ ears can hear the radio message before the tone even goes off,” said staffing supervisor Kim Stambler, a senior.

One of the difficulties faced by student EMTs is treating people they know, which members said can be awkward at times

“Sometimes people you know just aren’t comfortable discussing a serious medical issue, so it’s a little tougher,” Berenson said.

“We always remain professional about it. Usually the patient is really understanding – they realize that were only there to assist them,” Schirmer said.

The group’s medical equipment is located in the EMeRG quick response vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe the program acquired this year. The vehicle, which seats four people, was purchased with funds allocated by UPD.

The Department of Emergency Medicine and UPD sponsor EMeRG, which responds to calls that involve students on GW property and around Foggy Bottom.

About 54 percent of calls received by EMeRG are alcohol-related, with little variation over the years. The rest of the calls range from falls to motor vehicle accidents to fights on the street.

Since the end of August, EMeRG has received 328 calls.

The National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation’s “EMS Week” is scheduled for this week. The sixth-annual celebration honors EMS providers at more than 150 colleges and universities across the country. On Wednesday, EMeRG will have a table on the first floor of the Marvin Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering free blood pressure screenings and equipment training.

“EMeRG is different from any other job you can have,” Schirmer said. “It lets you give something back to your school, to help out your fellow students.”

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