Emergency preparation should be mandatory for students


By Emma Goodwin

If you read my column last week, you met my roommate, Molly. While I could tell you facts I knew about her before we moved in together, I found out the most important thing about her last Tuesday. She can’t swallow pills any bigger than jellybeans.

Like I said, I didn’t know this last Tuesday when I was about to leave for my class. I thought she was joking when she hurdled down our stairs, motioning to her reddening face after taking an antibiotic. Before I knew it, I was giving the Heimlich maneuver for the first time in my life, not sure what to do.

I was absolutely terrified — and I wasn’t even the one who was choking. Lucky for us, our other roommate is CPR-certified, and Molly ended up perfectly fine — albeit late for class with a sore throat.

That morning, I realized the importance of knowing how to immediately respond to emergencies, as well as how little many students, myself included, know about acting in dire situations.

There are several aspects of emergency preparedness that many students aren’t exposed to until they need to act, which can be too late. If an emergency occurs and we don’t know how to respond, it can be a life or death situation.

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    There are many catastrophes that occur daily, from natural disasters to health emergencies and crime. It’s absurd that the only time our professors “prepare” us for these events is a PowerPoint slide or a sentence during syllabus week to get the precautions out of the way about which exit to use during a fire. And even that does not always happen.

    Students can register to be apart of the Illini Emergency Medical Services, which certifies students as emergency medical technicians to learn these necessary skills, but we could use something tailored toward the average student with more versatility in its lessons.

    One way to solve emergency ignorance is creating a first semester seminar mandatory for incoming freshmen spanning a variety of topics.

    Here are lessons that could, and should, be covered:

    1. The Heimlich maneuver and seizure response: 

    You don’t have to be certified to administer the Heimlich maneuver, which is a fairly simple thrust. However, there are important things that the person giving the Heimlich might not be aware of that they should be doing, such as telling the choker to keep coughing. Also, after news of a student having a seizure in a class this year exploded on Yik-Yak, people expressed concern over proper care. Knowing what to do when someone seizes in front of you is also critical (holding the head or neck is a big no-no).

    2. “Run, Fight or Hide”: 

    I know of many classes this semester in which professors explained what these steps were, but personally, my professors joked about the components. Professors joking over the seriousness of “Run, Fight, or Hide” as a response to a potential shooting doesn’t prepare us for if we ever have to face that situation. It teaches students that it isn’t a serious concern. This lesson should be spread in a serious environment, alleviating professor responsibility to spread one consistent and safe message.

    3. School shooting preparation: 

    This piggybacks on “Run, Fight or Hide,” but begs a more specialized focus. Many of us went through lockdown drills in high school but this beast takes on a whole new meaning on a scattered campus. Shootings and other forms of violence happen too frequently for us to not be informed of what we should do. Procedures might switch whether we’re in a housing unit, classroom, outdoors or a communal campus area like the Union. It’s crucial for us to be prepared in all of those arenas of campus.

    4. Fire safety:

    This might sound redundant as most of us learned stop, drop and roll techniques in elementary school. But if knowing this three step children’s rule is the extent of your ability to react to a fire, then there’s a lot you’re missing — especially since this method only works if your clothing is on fire. This safety seminar can encompass knowledge on what to do depending on your surroundings, seeing as fires in housing units are most common between 5-11 p.m. and on weekends, which are times that tend to be highly concentrated with people.

    These guidelines should be expanded to teach a variety of emergency skills. They don’t include everything we need to know, but this is a safe place for the University to start. 

    Being oblivious when Molly choked was one of the most unsettling feelings I’ve experienced. As serious as choking is, I can’t even fathom how petrified students would feel in the case of a fire or shooting, which we seem to be less prepared for. By a lucky guess, we saved Molly — but not everyone is this fortunate. 

    All of us would rather be safe than sorry, especially when “sorry” can end lives, so let’s keep our students safe, no matter what hands they’re in.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].