Saige Saunig: It’s a fact, EMeRG does more than alcohol

Flashing lights. Sirens. A stretcher is pulled out. Students gather to watch.

This can only mean one thing: Someone is getting EMeRGed.

Whenever an EMeRG vehicle pulls up to a building, onlookers often dismiss it as just another drunk kid. Sometimes when an EMeRG vehicle arrives at a residence hall in the early evening, you can hear students asking each other, “Did someone really start drinking this early?”

It’s National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services week, and GW’s emergency response organization deserves a little more recognition than just being known as the campus group that carts our intoxicated classmates away.

Due to the overarching belief that EMeRG only responds to incidents of alcohol poisoning, many students are unaware that the emergency response team addresses many on-campus medical emergencies. This points out the glaring misconceptions surrounding EMeRG and why students need to better understand the function of the medical responders on campus.

Emergency medical technicians can respond to most health crises, from injuries to seizures. Instead of calling 911 if you’re sick on campus, EMeRG is prepared to take students and faculty to the hospital for free. A transport in a District ambulance can cost students more than $500.

At Colonial Inauguration and throughout freshman year, it should be made explicitly clear to students that EMeRG can be a first response option for emergencies beyond alcohol-related incidents. E-mails should be sent out to students on a somewhat regular basis, reminding them to call 202-994-6111 for any medical emergencies. It would be even more helpful if EMeRG directly contacted students and made its services explicitly clear.

To its credit, the EMeRG staff holds a number of events throughout the year, from bake sales to fundraisers. It also teaches classes on student safety and preparedness. But ultimately, these events aren’t bringing the positive associations the organization deserves.

While the University and the EMeRG program undoubtedly should do more to educate students on how to react to medical crises, students need to pay better attention when information like this is provided. At the end of the day, it’s students who will benefit from reaching out to EMeRG in an emergency situation, and the onus is on us to internalize this fact and pass it along.

And clearly, student response to EMeRG is less than favorable sometimes. Even the fact that “EMeRG” has become a verb in GW vocabulary to mean getting transported for alcohol abuse shows that we have a warped sense of what the organization does. So, while the organization still needs to up the ante on its publicity, this is ultimately the student body’s task to resolve.

Saige Saunig, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

This column was updated on Nov. 11, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that 202-994-4611 was the number to reach EMeRG. The correct number is 202-994-6111.

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