EMS Club making progress, facing obstacles

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By: Brian Case

Embry-Riddle's EMS Club is close to, but not yet at, their goal of an on campus EMS service. Legal requirements remain the largest hurdle yet to be overcome, now nine months since the organization was founded.

Although not well known, Embry-Riddle's EMS organization is one of the largest on campus. The nearly fifty members, a handful of who have professional certifications, train interested new members in emergency medicine and use their experience to enhance the safety of Embry-Riddle.

But providing EMS services to campus has been more difficult than expected. Although many members are Emergency Medical Technicians elsewhere in the country, members would be required to obtain Florida certification before they could officially operate. Operating an EMS service also exposes the University to risk. Work is underway to address these legal issues so the club can officially begin staffing special events and peak times on campus.

Teryn Wiskirchen, the University's risk manager and Michael Murray, Embry-Riddle's general councilor sorted through these issues with The Avion last week. The EMS Club will use a set of medical directives provided by the County, shifting the liability for any incorrectly written medical procedures to Volusia County. The Student Government Association allocated the club $3,400 to purchase insurance similar to what an ambulance operator would carry. An official agreement between the county and Embry-Riddle is the last major component missing.

No one can say for sure when exactly all parties will be satisfied. "We cannot give for sure a definite date, but we would like to think sometime soon," Murray said. He was hopeful the agreement would be in place by the end of the semester, but offered no guarantee when pressed.

When fully operational the organization will be able to respond to campus medical emergencies with the help of Campus Safety's dispatch center. Club volunteers will form duty teams that will rotate shifts. When a medical call is received at Campus Safety, the EMS duty team will respond alongside a safety officer. If an ambulance is required, the ambulance's responders will take over care when they arrive.

The Avion estimates that the EMS club would be called to between 10 and 15 incidents each month if on duty 24 hours a day. The Avion contacted Volusia County EMS for historical ambulance data and was forwarded to EVAC Ambulance. EVAC Ambulance was unable to immediately provide data on the frequency of calls to Embry-Riddle or average response times.

Director of Campus Safety Kevin Mannix and Crime Prevention Coordinator Deborah Oellerich both emphasized the need for students to include Campus Safety in any emergency by dialing SAFE (7233). Campus Safety can call 911 for students and will direct an ambulance to be escorted by a patrol vehicle.

When an ambulance arrives without an escort, the driver often does not know where on campus to proceed. "It's happened before where an ambulance has been here 3-5 minutes driving around," said Mannix, emphasizing minutes count during an emergency.

EMS Club members also will be present at large sporting activities and Touch-N-Go Productions events to respond and treat any medical issue experienced by any student or staff member. The presence of qualified medical personnel, able to respond immediately, may make all the difference during a medical emergency. The University currently contracts with EVAC Ambulance to provide standby EMS services during special events.

The EMS club already has all the necessary equipment needed to function. This includes three response bicycles with first responder kits, two more kits for special events, and an infant kit. The University has provided the club with a portable Automated External Deliberator (AED), which costs approximately $12,000.

The club has been a part of the Embry-Riddle community since spring 2006. The President and Chief Casey Kinosz and Vice President Julio Arango formed the organization during their employment by Campus Safety as Crime Prevention Officers. Since then, they and the club have taken steps to make campus safer, including adding a second line to the campus emergency number.

The members hope to see the EMS club in full operation soon, providing a valuable addition to the University's safety department.

But for the moment, the 50 members of the organization wait on the Embry-Riddle's administrators to give the club the go ahead.

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