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Rice aims to dispel student misconceptions about EMS calls

By Brooke Bullock     11/9/11 6:00pm

Two rumors have spread through the student body that discourage students from contacting Rice Emergency Medical Services in alcohol related incidents, University Court Chair Ellory Matzner said.

First, students may think that RUPD accompanies Rice EMS on calls in order to get students in trouble; second, if the student needs to be transported, there may be a falling-out between friends afterward, Matzner, a Wiess College senior, said.

"One of the challenges that we face as UCourt, Student Judicial Affairs and RUPD is trying to communicate effectively with students," Matzner said.

One important thing to note is that EMS does not function as a reporting service, Director of Rice EMS Lisa Basgall said. The primary function of EMS is to care for patients, Basgall said.

Generating reports is not RUPD's goal when accompanying EMS, Associate Dean of Undergraduates Don Ostdiek said.

Interim Police Captain Clemente Rodriguez said RUPD responds to alcohol-related calls to ensure scene safety. Potential dangers or interference with EMS could come from large crowds – often associated with alcohol-related calls – or belligerent or aggressive people on-scene, sometimes including the person in need of treatment, Rodriguez said.

"If there are any safety concerns on the scene, such as bystanders trying to harm or injure the REMS provider, or bystanders blocking REMS from reaching a person having a medical emergency, REMS may report these concerns to RUPD once patient care has been provided," Basgall said.

RUPD does not interfere with the situation unless there are blatant violations from people not involved with the EMS call at the scene or someone hinders EMS from providing treatment, Rodriguez said.

RUPD stays at the scene but tries not to hover over EMS and does not collect information, Rodriguez said.

Amnesty does not extend to students who are found obviously intoxicated by regular RUPD patrols, however. Rodriguez said if a student is found belligerently drunk or passed out by RUPD patrols, the first priority is safety, and RUPD will call EMS to make sure the student gets treatment.

The amnesty provided by the Rice Alcohol Policy is now backed by Senate Bill 1331, which states that underage persons who call for EMS receive amnesty for the caller and the person in need of medical attention. S.B. 1331 amnesty only covers charges of minor in consumption and minor in possession, however, and not any other charges. An incident in which an 18-year-old male died during a fraternity hazing event due to an alcohol overdose was the source of the Senate bill, Rodriguez said.

The second concern students have deals with the aftermath of a transport, if one is needed. Matzner said that students hesitate because they don't want their friends to be upset with them if their parents find out or if there are costly medical bills.

"The way to respond to that [concern] is that, if you're not medically trained, you can't make a medical decision," Matzner said. "If they need to be transported, they are in a severe condition and could die."

After a transport, the student's masters are notified, but the masters do not notify the student's parents as a matter of routine, Ostdiek said. The only reason a Rice officer would notify parents as part of its duties is if the student is under 18 years old, Ostdiek said.

Jones College sophomore Tanner Songkakul agreed with Matzner's point that it is always better to call EMS.

"I would always worry about getting them [my friend] into some sort of trouble, whether it be with the authorities or in terms of prolonging the liquor ban," Songkakul said. "If they really needed assistance I would call anyway."

Wiess College President Charlie Dai said that the efforts to inform students have helped, but that views toward EMS may take longer to change.

"I don't think we have done all that we can, formally, to address negative perceptions of EMS, but it's definitely something to continue thinking about in the near future," Dai, a Wiess College senior, said.

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