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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BEMCo alcohol calls escalate at beginning of semester

Published: September 12, 2014
Section: News

The Brandeis University Police Department Media log released on Sept. 7 reported eight different alcohol-related incidents, most of which involved dispatching both University Police and Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo). There were 22 medical emergencies reported in the media log. Therefore, alcohol-related incidents comprised 36 percent of the medical emergencies for this first full week back on campus.

“BEMCo calls related to alcohol are normally highest around the beginning of the semesters and certain holiday weekends such as Halloween and Purim,” confirmed Jeffrey Katz ’15, the Director of BEMCo. Katz stated that on average 15-17 percent of BEMCo calls involved alcohol. The stated 36 percent this past week is well above the norm, in line with Katz’s statement that the start of the semester is a dangerous time.

Rose Solomon ’15 is currently a general member of Brandeis Peers Educating about Responsible Choices (PERC), though she formerly served as club president. In an interview with The Hoot, she stated there are three factors that contribute to the increase in students drinking recklessly earlier on in the year: “Students have less work to do in general, so they have more spare time in which they might drink … There are more, larger parties where alcohol is present, increasing access and creating the social inducement to drink … There is a disproportionate number of students who are inexperienced with alcohol, and they are less likely to know their limits for drinking without creating a medical emergency,” she stated.

Out of the eight alcohol-related incidents last week, four involved transportation via ambulance to the hospital. The media report reads, “rp reports a 20 yr old intoxicated female, University Police and BEMCo dispatched, Bemco treated the party and requests an ambulance … Party transported via ambulance to the NWH for further care, CDCOC notified.” The other four incidents involved a refusal of care, such as this one on Sept. 6. “University Police on patrol report an intoxicated male on the ground. BEMCo responded and treated the party on scene with a signed refusal for further care,” stated the media report.

Solomon recommends following basic alcohol safety tips in order to avoid the danger that comes with the start of the semester. “Don’t front-load your night with alcohol, e.g. by pregaming an event. Your stomach doesn’t store alcohol and release it at a nice, controlled rate … Drink after eating a meal with a good mix of nutrients. Fats help to insulate the stomach, and carbohydrates can (depending on the form) act like a sponge to soak up alcohol and slow the rate of absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream,” she said. She also provided tips related to social safety. “Know where you’re going, who you’re going with, how to contact them and how you’re all getting back. This is especially important for first-year students who may not yet have a strong social network/support system … Watch your drinks being poured, and don’t pick a drink back up after putting it down. You want to know what’s in your cup,” she said.

Both Solomon and Katz emphasized the importance of reacting appropriately if a situation involving alcohol becomes critical. “If you are on campus: call BEMCo at (781) 736-3333. If you are EVER in ANY doubt about whether someone is going to be okay, you should call,” said Solomon. Katz added that there is no punishment for calling BEMCo. “BEMCo has worked with the Department of Public Safety to assure that students who call BEMCo for their medical attention or that of a fellow member of the Brandeis Community will not get into trouble. There are BUPD officers on almost every BEMCo call, but they are there for the safety of the BEMCo members and the patient(s); not to discipline students,” Katz said.

During a typical BEMCo call for an intoxicated patient, BEMCo members first must assess the patient’s level of consciousness, airway, breathing and circulation. “We will immediately take spinal precautions and do a physical examination if deemed necessary,” said Katz. “We then continue our assessment to get an understanding of the scope of the intoxication. This will include listening to the way the person is speaking, understanding the time period of ingestion, what the person had to drink, how much the person had to drink and seeing if the patient is still nauseated or vomiting on scene. We will then in our assessment ask if the student took any other drugs that might interact with the alcohol (it should be noted that students will not get in any trouble if they say yes),” Katz said. BEMCo members also take the patient’s vital signs, blood glucose level, ask about their medical history and see if they can walk.

Katz also wanted to raise awareness about the fact that not all BEMCo alcohol-related incidences end with an ambulance ride. “BEMCo, unlike most EMS services, has special permission from our medical director to allow patients who are intoxicated to refuse medical transport to the hospital as long as they meet a certain set of clinical criteria. These criteria were made, with our medical director, to make sure that the students who do not wish to go to the hospital are getting better and will be in no danger of harm to themselves or others without the presence of medical supervision,” he stated.

Even for off-campus situations, students still have a responsibility to protect their own safety and the safety of their friends. “If you are off campus: CALL 911. I know that many students are averse to doing this because it could get the hosts of the party in trouble, and they don’t want to incur an expensive ambulance ride for a friend. I cannot stress enough how important it is to realize that NEITHER of those things is ever going to be more important than someone’s life,” said Solomon.

To combat these high numbers of alcohol-related incidents, PERC offers hall programs about basic alcohol and social safety information, especially to first-years. “One of our main goals is to dispel misinformation about alcohol and social norms,” said Solomon.

“Once again, no student will get into trouble for calling BEMCo,” Katz concluded. “So if a student is unsure if their intoxicated friend needs help or not it is best to call us (781-736-3333), and let us examine the patient.”