NEW MEDICAL SUPPORT UNIT HELPS SU AMBULANCE PREPARE TO HANDLE MAJOR EMERGENCIES
Last summer, Syracuse University students Matt Belzak ’00 and Jesse Moore ’99 put a lot of work into designing and developing a medical support unit that they hope will never be used. The two emergency medical technician (EMT) volunteers with SU Ambulance (SUA) created the specially equipped medical support trailer for use in the event of a large-scale medical emergency. SUA purchased the trailer, a minivan with which to pull it, and a variety of medical and emergency relief supplies for the unit with proceeds from the SU football team’s 1999 Orange Bowl appearance. “A medical support unit is something most EMTs never see, because few communities have them and they are used only in unusual circumstances,” says Belzak, a senior in the College of Nursing. “So it was a huge opportunity for us to put it together, and it will be a great experience for members of the SU Ambulance corps to have one and maintain it.”
Medical support units enable EMTs, paramedics, and other emergency relief providers to treat many people at the site of a disaster, such as an airplane crash or a violent storm. Ambulances are equipped to effectively treat only one or two people at a time. The SUA medical support unit is equipped to treat about 30 people at once. “While you never want disasters to happen, you always have to be prepared for them,” says Bob Audet ’90, emergency med×cal services manager at the Health Center. “Having this equipment on hand better prepares the SU community to deal with an emergency situation. I know of no other college campus that has this kind of equipment.”
Once the funds were secured to purchase the medical support unit, Belzak and Moore sought advice from emergency medical service leaders in Onondaga County and surrounding communities on how medical support units were prepared. “The more we talked with people in other communities, the more we realized we were on to a good idea,” says Belzak.
After consulting with the experts, Belzak and Moore began pricing the necessary equipment to make a medical support unit a reality. SUA purchased the trailer and minivan, which is also used for medical assistance transport across campus. Those two expenses used about $27,000 of the $35,000 grant. After that, Belzak and Moore began purchasing the supplies needed to equip the unit. “In addition to such standard medical supplies as bandages, gauze, and tape, we equipped the trailer with backboards, head blocks, collars, and blood pressure cuffs,” Belzak says. “We also purchased flashlights, clipboards, tarps, blankets, cots, lights, and a generator—items that are essential to manage crisis situations or an emergency that lasts over a prolonged period of time.” The carpentry shop at the University’s Physical Plant built custom shelving in the trailer to secure all the equipment.
SU Ambulance volunteer Daniele Perrella '01, a student in the College of Nursing, examines supplies in the medical support unit.
Belzak and Moore had the emergency medical unit ready just before the start of the school year. Since then, it has become a valuable resource not only for the University, but also for Onondaga County. “We have wanted to build a unit like this for a long time based on the high potential for multiple-patient incidents on campus, given the student gatherings, high-rise residence halls,µand the Carrier Dome,” Audet says. “In the past couple years, we’ve seen the Labor Day storm, the MTV Campus Invasion concert, and the Livingston Avenue disturbance. Each of these incidents could have been better managed if we had the appropriate equipment.”
Thankfully, the emergency medical unit has not yet been put to the test, but that does not diminish its long-term value. “On one hand, it’s great for SU to have this equipment available in the event of a disaster, because we’ll be better prepared to deal with it,” Belzak says. “But more than that, students for years to come will have the opportunity to maintain this equipment and use it as a part of their EMT training.”