Allow Longhorn EMS to save student lives

Megan Tran , Associate Editor

When a medical emergency occurs, what happens when the ambulance doesn’t come in time? What happens when your heart stops and you can’t breathe, but no one around can help? What happens when there’s an accident and you’re bleeding out, but the EMTs can’t find you?

 Longhorn EMS, an agency of UT Student Government, is composed of certified and trained student EMT workers. For years, they’ve petitioned the University to allow them to operate as an on-campus first responder organization.

 The organization has the capability to reduce the response time to medical emergencies, and it’s time for UT to prioritize student safety and allow Longhorn EMS to respond to medical emergencies.

 University spokesperson JB Bird declined to comment and instead referred to his prior statements from 2017 and 2019. These statements explained that the University believes that allowing Longhorn EMS to serve as a first responder organization would not provide sufficient benefits to the UT community while ensuring the safety of student EMTs.

 However, no one can predict when life-threatening emergencies will happen, so effective medical responses must be efficient and quick. Many times, the difference between life and death can be minutes — or even seconds.

 Angelica Montes, a nutrition junior and Longhorn EMS captain, clarified that Longhorn EMS would supplement services provided by Austin-Travis County EMS by drastically reducing emergency response times.

 “(Austin-Travis County EMS provides) awesome care, but their average response time on campus is about eight to nine minutes. (Studies show that) our response time would be about two to three minutes,” Montes said. “Longhorn EMS would serve as an additional service that gets there early, starts care and then transfers care when (municipal EMS) arrives.”

 Permanent brain damage can set in after only four minutes of oxygen deprivation, and death can come as soon as four minutes later. Studies have found that intervention within the first five minutes after a medical emergency occurs is typically the determining factor for survival outcomes.

 Over 25% of the calls regarding medical emergencies on campus are classified as time sensitive and high priority. Clearly, response time matters. Austin-Travis County EMS often can’t arrive within that crucial intervention period, but Longhorn EMS can. 

Additionally, over 250 colleges and universities across the United States have established campus-based emergency medical services. Some of these comparable schools include UT Dallas, Texas A&M, UCLA and Notre Dame.

While it’s difficult to imagine that students are qualified to provide emergency care, those responding to on-campus emergencies would be certified and trained. At its most basic, training to become an EMT usually takes around 150 hours to complete over a period of months. During these hours, prospective EMTs must take a classroom course and participate in hands-on training in person.

 Grace Drew, biology senior and Longhorn EMS chief, said that in addition to being certified, EMTs in Longhorn EMS must undergo rigorous testing requirements that check for underlying knowledge as well as the ability to perform certain skills. 

 Preventing Longhorn EMS from operating on campus doesn’t protect its members from the challenges and potential dangers associated with working as an EMT. According to Drew, many students already work outside of Longhorn EMS as professional first responders. What’s more, student EMTs are familiar with the UT campus and can navigate buildings to rapidly reach students.

“Within emergency medicine, seconds — let alone minutes — save lives,” said Drew. 

Tran is a Plan II and English sophomore from Houston, Texas.