In November 2019 EMS World profiled several college- and university-based EMS organizations and their contributions to their campus communities. With most college campuses now closed around the country, dorms emptied and learning shifted to online classes, we followed up with several of these organizations to see what their services look like in the time of COVID-19.
Longhorn EMS, University of Texas
Even though the large Austin-Travis County EMS system provides 9-1-1 response to the bustling Austin campus, the Longhorn EMS group is a growing presence. Founded in 2005, Longhorn EMS is a Texas-recognized first responder agency consisting of 70 members who provide medical standby for campus events and non-NCAA athletic events such as the annual Longhorn Run and Austin City Limits music festival. While the organization does not have a vehicle, its members have a strong presence at campus events.
According to senior bio-chem major and Longhorn EMS Chief Ksenia Vlassova, the squad went out of service when the campus closed. “Before our campus closed completely, we donated all our PPE and other necessary supplies to local hospitals, since there was a shortage on their end. Our members are working at different places now,” says Vlassova. Junior Lisa Hoang is working at an urgent care center doing temperature screenings and volunteering as a counselor on a university crisis line. Senior Alieen Hu is volunteering for a foundation that conducts welfare checks on single elderly individuals. Several members are working paid EMS in Texas or for FEMA teams. As for Vlassova, she is missing what would have been spring of her senior year of college. However, that is not stopping her from helping, as she works at BioLife Plasma Services toward creating a vaccine for the virus.
UVAC, University of Maine
If you call 9-1-1 at the University of Maine, there’s a strong chance you’ll get one of the University Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ (UVAC’s) two ALS ambulances, each stocked with a cardiac monitor and ALS medications and staffed by EMTs and paramedics. Using a 2017 Ford Type III, a 2013 Mercedes diesel ambulance, and a 2008 Toyota Camry chase car, the service responds to 430 calls a year.
According to Assistant Chief Connor Gilson, UVAC has partially gone out of service since the university closed its campus and switched to online instruction. UVAC loaned its ambulances and gave away most of its PPE to surrounding agencies. Its ALS fly car is still in service from 9–5 daily to provide first response to campus calls. Gilson says there have only been about 1,000 COVID-19 cases in Maine, and as a result there have been few in the area and none UVAC crews have come in contact with.
The dispersed UVAC members are all helping in different ways. Some went south to work EMS in New York, and some to the New England area also. Gilson is currently working in the Boston area with a large number of COVID patients.
With a call volume of more than 550 a year, Tulane University EMS and its two ambulances stay busy keeping the students and staff at this New Orleans university safe. According to Tulane EMS Director Heather Scianneaux, Tulane EMS is currently out of service. The school’s campus is open for essential personnel only at this time. About 400 students remain in the dorms because they were unable to go home for various reasons. About 1,200 students remain living in houses around campus.
Scianneaux says many Tulane EMS members are now working for New Orleans EMS while dealing with this pandemic. Tulane also has members who are volunteering for the local Medical Reserve Corps, and multiple members are volunteering at their local EMS and fire services back home.
A few EMS staff are working with the Tulane University medical staff testing COVID-19 patients. The number of patients getting tested is declining, Scianneaux says, and as a result Tulane EMS also donated its extra PPE to New Orleans EMS.
Five Quad Ambulance, State University of New York at Albany
The Five Quad Volunteer Ambulance Service provides BLS service to the State University of New York at Albany, a state school of 18,000 students. Founded in 1973 by students who saw a need for speedier EMS service, Five Quad has two BLS ambulances and two first responder SUVs.
With the university closed and students shifted to online learning, Five Quad sent an ambulance and volunteer EMT crew to hard-hit Rockland County, N.Y. It has also been responding to many COVID calls in Nanuet and Spring Valley.
EMS World applauds all college responders looking for ways to help during the pandemic even when their campuses are closed!
Barry A. Bachenheimer, EdD, FF/EMT, is a career educator and university professor, as well as a firefighter and member of the technical-rescue team with the Roseland (N.J.) Fire Department and an EMT with the South Orange (N.J.) Rescue Squad. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.