Students to assist with medical load on Unofficial

By Eric Anderson

This Unofficial, dialing 911 for an ambulance could flag University students who double as Emergency Medical Technicians when the University needs them most.

For the first time, Illini Emergency Medical Service, also called IEMS, will plant teams comprised of student medical technicians to administer care from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. on Saturday.

“All of our members will be wearing red pullover jackets with the star of life on the back and IEMS on the front,” said Kurt Bloomstrand, director of IEMS operations, ProAmbulance employee and senior in LAS.

IEMS has 400 members trained in CPR and other medical aid, a quarter of which are Emergency Medical Technician Basics. ProAmbulance, an emergency response service, contacted IEMS to help manage Unofficial’s heightened emergency call volume.

“We will be going along to triage the patients before the ambulance can get there,” Bloomstrand said. “That way we can free up more ambulances in a quicker manner than what (ProAmbulance) has done in years past.”

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After annexing high-risk zones from last Unofficial’s emergency call hotspots, IEMS will assign two teams to Green Street, one at the Six Pack and one at PAR/FAR. Teams will consist of three Emergency Medical Technician Basics who are trained to administer basic life support care.

“This is all volunteer,” said Josh Zimmerman, public relations director of IEMS and junior in LAS. “Nobody in the organization is required to staff Unofficial.”

Each student technician will be equipped with, among other medical supplies, an automated external defibrillator, an oxygen pack, a pack of bandages and airway clearing tools.

“If somebody goes unconscious or collapses, the defibrillator will shock them back into rhythm,” Bloomstrand said.

Bloomstrand will dispatch the teams of technicians from a mobile command center that will navigate the hotspots.

“We can start taking vitals, start talking to them, start assessing what we call their ‘level of consciousness’ and determine whether this is something that requires an ambulance,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman and Bloomstrand agree that working Unofficial will present challenges that are absent in traditional venues, such as Assembly Hall events.

“Unofficial is more of real life, hands-on stuff,” Bloomstrand said. “We’re going to have a lot of intoxicated patients due to Unofficial.”

One technician on each team will be equipped with a radio to contact Bloomstrand, the hospital or ambulances.

“We’re going to go where the calls take us,” Zimmerman said.

Lt. Skip Frost of the University Police Department said he believes IEMS will ease the burden of authorities trying to control Unofficial’s hazards.

“(IEMS will) be able to help us evaluate intoxicated students,” Frost said. “I think they’re a huge asset.”

Training has prepared the technicians to respond to a wide variety of incidents including alcohol-related injuries.

“The biggest problem that I’ve run into with alcohol isn’t so much that people drink to the point of physical incapacitating (themselves),” Zimmerman said. “(Most injuries come from) the person that had one too many, falls and bumps his head. Or the person that had one too many, got into a bar fight and now has a big cut on his face that needs stitches. That’s a lot of what we’ll deal with.”

To ensure safety of the technicians, two of the technicians will administer care while the third watches their backs.

“The first and foremost thing that they teach anybody in an (Emergency Medical Technician) class is that your safety comes before anybody else,” Zimmerman said. “Your safety, your teammates’ safety are the paramount issues we have to face.”

For Bloomstrand, Unofficial is just another event in need of medical services.

“We’re not taking a stand either way on Unofficial,” Bloomstrand said. “We’re just there to do our part and do our job.”