By Alexandra Macaulay Abdelwahab
It’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday. As most Pitman Hall residents head out for the night, two members of the Ryerson Student Emergency Response Team (RyeSERT) discover a student lying on her dorm room floor.
She’s just fallen off a table and is complaining of a sore back. Fearing the worst, RyeSERT springs into action, strapping her to a spine board and putting her on a stretcher.
Fortunately, it was a demonstration and not a real emergency. But now that RyeSERT, a first-aid team run by student volunteers, is dispatched by Ryerson security, this is exactly what they could run into on the job.
No calls came in while The Eyeopener shadowed RyeSERT but two emergency calls came in early on Sunday morning.
As of move-in day, RyeSERT has provided 24- hour coverage in all residences and the Ram in the Rye. When security receives a medical emergency call in these areas, they dispatch RyeSERT members to assist with the call.
“It’s important that students are responding,” said Gabriel Lazdins, RyeSERT’s director.
“A student is not going to confide in a security guard about drug or alcohol abuse because they’ll be afraid of getting in trouble, when they should be worried about getting the medical help they need.”
Caitlin Lusk, a first-year film student who lives in Pitman Hall agrees.
“We’ll trust them more because they don’t carry a badge and can’t reprimand us,” she said.
Many students have already approached RyeSERT members with their medical conditions which are now kept on a list in their office, said Lazdins.
RyeSERT had been trying to reach an agreement with the university to provide coverage across campus for the last five years. The university was reluctant to sign because they were afraid of problems with liability, according to Lazdins.
RyeSERT is not allowed to administer drugs on campus although the organization is recognized by Toronto EMS and certified to administer 11 different drugs including injectable Gravol, Epinephrine and Ventolin for asthma attacks.
“It’s unfortunate because if someone is suffering from an allergic reaction, diabetic coma or heart attack, we can’t treat it,” said Lazdins.
Despite problems in the past, there have not been any conflicts between RyeSERT and security this year.
“So far it’s been really great. Most of the RyeSERT people have a high level of training, comparable to ours. It basically just means we have an extra set of hands” said Imre Juurlink, supervisor of security and emergency services.
The team has taken up office on the second floor of Pitman Hall and have a stretcher, spine board and two medical kits at the ready at all times. Two RyeSERT members sleep over every night so the office also has a bunk bed.
“Whenever there are students in the building, we’re here,” said Lazdins.
“Residence is pretty nutty on the weekends and a lot of students are probably getting hurt or getting alcohol poisoning,” said Lee Jones, a first-year graphic communications management student.