Left to right: Nathaniel Hedrick, Miranda Sedlak, William Kanzig, Clara Harrod, Scott Ribley, Stacy Smith, David Rose and Lee Ann Hall.
As winter revs up to its usual Arctic intensity, the citizens of Ada, Ohio, and the surrounding communities can rest easy knowing that in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency or automobile accident, they’ll find themselves in very good hands.
For the campus community, those hands may accompany a familiar face, one of the eight current and former Ohio Northern University employees or students who volunteer with the Ada-Liberty Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Like many small communities, the village of Ada depends on volunteers to staff its fire department and rescue services. With ONU contributing significantly to the village’s population, it’s no surprise to find squad members employed by the University. It may surprise, however, to learn just how much support ONU gives to these vital community services.
Realizing the benefits that a well-staffed emergency service brings to campus, ONU encourages its students and employees (including Sodexo personnel) to serve by offering an emergency medical technician (EMT) training course and by granting amnesty to employees miss work due to EMS action.
This amnesty policy was initiated 10 years ago after an incident on campus involving a visiting athlete during a competition.
“Because so many volunteer EMTs were working at their regular jobs at the time, there wasn’t an Ada squad available,” recalls EMT Lee Ann Hall, director of Business Services and Risk Management at ONU. “In fact, the county dispatcher had to call two other area departments before finding one that was sufficiently staffed, resulting in a long delay in treatment.”
Fortunately, the incident was not serious, but it drew into sharp relief the need for volunteers to be available when needed most. Shortly thereafter, the administration enacted a policy, which allowed ONU employee EMT to respond to calls without penalty for time missed. To help bolster the number of volunteers, the University also paid for the training of new EMTs for a time.
This level of support is necessary for a job as demanding as a volunteer EMT. According to Ada-Liberty EMS protocol, each squad member must be on call for a minimum of 36 hours each month or participate in five hospital runs, whichever comes first. Combined with a full work or class schedule, it takes a tremendous amount of dedication.
“Time is always a struggle,” says Nathaniel Hedrick, a fifth-year pharmacy major from Brecksville, Ohio. “Being on call means having your radio on at all times and actively listening so you can respond to a call. This does give you time to do homework, but it also leads to some coffee-driven mornings.”
Hall can sympathize with Hedrick.
“It’s exhausting to go on what I refer to as the two-four-six runs,” she says. “That’s when you get called at 2 a.m., return home around 4 a.m. and can’t get to sleep until 6 a.m. because of all the adrenalin in your body. Then the alarm clock goes off and you get up and go to work. That’s a long day, especially as some of us get older.”
Responding to a rescue call typically takes around two hours. After a 911 call is relayed from a county dispatcher, the EMTs on call meet at the station and load into one of Ada-Liberty’s two ambulances. From there, it’s sirens and flashing lights to the scene where they meet with police or the fire department, depending on the situation. The squad works quickly to stabilize the patient for transport, and rushes him or her to the nearest hospital providing treatment along the way. After delivering the patient to the hospital, the team fills out a report detailing what occurred on the call, and then cleans and restocks the ambulance so it’s ready the next time it’s needed.
It seems like a lot because it is. And this is after an EMT has undergone all the training required to legally become one.
At Northern, that training begins each fall semester with BIO 2381: EMT Training, a course offered by the Biological and Allied Health Sciences Department for the past 15 years. The course prepares students to meet the state requirements for a basic-level emergency medical technician and requires no prerequisites, making it an ideal course for anyone.
“I had absolutely no medical background prior to EMT training,” says Hall, who initially joined the EMS to watch after her son when he became a volunteer firefighter. “But it is such an awesome feeling to complete a critical run and consider that you might have contributed to saving someone’s life.”
Not surprisingly, the desire to help others is the primary motivation for becoming an EMT. And for some individuals, the nature of the job adds to the appeal.
“I always wanted to serve the community, but climbing on the roof as a firefighter wasn’t a real good fit for me,” says Bill Kanzig, a machinist in the College of Engineering. “However, I thought being an EMT might be. I told myself I’d give it five years, and here I am, going on eight.”
For Clara Harrod, a senior criminal justice major from Fairfax, Va., being part of the rescue squad has helped her feel closer to her adoptive community.
“I genuinely feel part of Ada because of the interactions I’ve had as part of the rescue squad,” she says. “I would definitely suggest it for students who want to be involved with the community.”
Since the first student volunteered for the squad many years ago, Ada-Liberty EMS has enjoyed a steady recruiting pipeline for EMTs. Unlike prior years, it hasn’t had to place ads in area newspapers to entice volunteers to join.
“Ada’s got a real advantage having Northern here, because, while not all of the students who take the class want to join the squad, some always do,” says Hall.
Apart from helping in sheer numbers, Hall also sees a common characteristic in the students on the squad that has benefitted the whole.
“They’re fearless. They aren’t afraid of anything. They jump right in, and they do what needs to be done.”
They all do.
And as a community, we should be very thankful for that.
To learn more about becoming a volunteer EMT, contact Ada-Liberty Emergency Medical Services Chief Tom Miller at email@example.com