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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BEMCo not called during Heller threat

Published: February 3, 2006
Section: News

Sources from within the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) have claimed that the Department of Public Safety violated campus emergency protocol by failing to activate the campus EMTs during the Jan. 18 terrorist threat on the Heller School.
Not once was BEMCo notified [of the threat], said Elan Schefflein 06, who acts as BEMCos director and one of their two clinical supervisors. We found out through the campus-wide e-mail, eight hours later.

Traditionally, whats supposed to happen is that the crew is called to a safe location to help out with any potential victims, said Schefflein. Four years ago there were three bomb threats in a rowevery time that would happen, the BEMCo crew would be dispatched, the supervisors were notified, and the E-Board was notified.

BEMCo was put on standby, in addition to ambulances and the fire department [during past incidents], added clinical supervisor Jonathan Sham 06.

According to BEMCo protocol XI.A.4. for Emergency Standbys, which can be found on BEMCos web site, BEMCo will be dispatched and the Supervisor notified in the following situations Emergency scene with potential patients.

Based on interviews with Schefflein and Sham, training on how to handle MCIs is required of all BEMCo staff members.

The Director of Public Safety, Ed Callahan, responded that realistically, it wasnt a bomb scare, it was a different type of scenario at times there are protocols that need to be tweaked or changed the determination to put BEMCo on hold was [not] disrespect [towards] BEMCo [just] everything requires judgment. Sometimes, when the Federal government is involved, protocols need to be changed.

Callahan also stated that the state hazardous materials, or HAZMAT, director was assisting Public Safety, as well as the services of various EMTs and medical services. If the need for additional medical sources had been needed, BEMCo would have been there, said Callahan.

Further violations have also been cited by BEMCo members. One occurred last semester, during a motor vehicle accident involving a student pedestrian crossing South Street (Student Hit By Car, November 4, 2005). According to BEMCo protocol XI.A.3., which prescribes BEMCo dispatching for motor vehicle accidents with injuries, BEMCo procedurally was supposed to be paged and assembled. Despite the protocol, however, BEMCo was never called to the scene. I paged BEMCO three times, said Schefflein, the on-duty BEMCo supervisor at the time, and a witness of the accident. At no time were we dispatched to the scene.

Callahan, when asked about the accident, responded that the first person on the scene was a BEMCo person, and there was an off-duty firefighter on the scene, as well the person was already triaged, which was why we called the fire department and American Medical Response. Callahan also stated that because the student was struck on a municipal street, the accident was on the property of the city of Waltham and thus was to be treated by a Waltham ambulance. Callahan had no comment about BEMCos absence other than, I believe BEMCo was called.

I make these decisions, said Callahan. Thats what Im paid, thats what Im empowered to do. Im supposed to initiate communications between the departments at our level that we have as our resources.

Schefflein told the Hoot that he met with Public Safety to discuss the exclusion of BEMCo from the Jan. 18 Heller incident, and were told that Public Safety had forgotten, that they didnt have time to page them, and that it was BEMCos responsibility to be proactive and to find out on its own how to best serve the community. I was furious, said another BEMCo staffer who chose to remain anonymous. Do you see an EMT looking around for gunshot victims? EMTs dont do that, they have dispatchers to call them up and tell them where to go.

BEMCo, which works with and is dispatched by the Department of Public Safety, acts as Brandeis first-response medical team, generally arriving on the scene of an on-campus emergency within one minute. The 80 BEMCo staffers are trained, certified emergency medical technicians for the state of Massachusetts.

BEMCo responders are required to take 28 hours of continuing education classes every two years, with topics ranging from gunshot wounds to sports injuries to mass casualty incidents, or MCIs, such as a potential terrorist attack, radioactive accident, or a chemical spill.

Leaving untapped a resource of 80 certified EMTs seems not in the Universitys best interests, said Jonathan Sham. Were public servants, we have a duty to the school, and were part of the emergency response system here at Brandeis it just shows a lack of respect here at Brandeis for what we do.