Emory Emergency Medical Services (EEMS) has temporarily stopped responding to 911 calls in an effort to train volunteers in compliance with updated protocols and technologies, according to EEMS Director Rachel Barnhard. EEMS stopped responding to calls at the start of the fall semester, according to an Aug. 16 email Barnhard sent to EEMS volunteers, which was forwarded to the Wheel by Barnhard.
EEMS administrators, including Barnhard, last year’s and this year’s student command staffs, Assistant Vice President for Public Safety Craig Watson and Vice President for Campus Services Matthew Early had discussed a halt in EEMS, Barnhard said.
After discussing the possibility of a delay with last year’s and this year’s student command staffs, Barnhard submitted a recommendation to halt EEMS to Watson, and they all signed off on the decision over the summer.
During the suspension, EEMS volunteers have been training with new protocols, medications and technologies, including an automatic CPR compression machine, Barnhard added.
EEMS did not announce the halt in service to the Emory community. Both Barnhard and Watson acknowledged that the lack of a public notification was a mistake.
“We own that,” Watson said. “That’s our lapse.”
Barnhard said the most common response from Emory community members who discovered the hiatus was that they were unaware of the delay and they “wish [they] would’ve known ahead of time.”
During EEMS’ hiatus, DeKalb County has continued to provide emergency response services to the Emory community.
Barnhard said that no particular event prompted the delay, which EEMS had been discussing for several years.
Approximately 35 EEMS volunteers are still training for an average of three hours a week, Barnhard said. Barnhard said EEMS will likely restart operations in November, provided that the majority of EEMS providers demonstrate competency in the new protocols.
According to the Aug. 16 email sent to volunteers from Barnhard, EEMS was scheduled to resume some operations in October, but Barnhard said that the start date was pushed back within the last two weeks.
“It’s been a minimally moving target because of things like human factors, hurricanes [and] fall break,” Barnhard said.
Once they resume services, EEMS responders will not immediately resume responding to all calls, Barnhard said. EEMS personnel will instead resume 24/7 coverage during peak times such as weekends when EEMS fields some of its highest-risk student calls.
EEMS will gradually add days to its coverage until it has returned to providing 24/7 responses, Barnhard said.
Emory Police Department (EPD) Sgt. John Harper wrote in an Oct. 16 email to the Wheel that the change in EEMS operations has not impacted how EPD responds to calls.
Despite its current out-of-service status, EEMS will provide its usual medical standby services at three major events during the month of October, including the 2017 Winship Win the Fight 5K Run/Walk and both Homecoming concerts.
EEMS was established in 1992 and is operated by volunteers. The program is open to Emory students, staff, faculty or alumni who possess current Georgia licensure as an Advanced EMT (AEMT) or Paramedic, according to the EEMS website. The program works in coordination with local emergency medical, fire and police services to provide emergency medical care to Emory and the surrounding community, according to the website. EEMS became the first licensed collegiate medical first responder service in Georgia, the website said.
Richard Chess contributed reporting.