It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. What do you do then? Call UREMS.

University of Richmond Emergency Medical Services is a student-run organization of dedicated first responders who offer assistance in the event of a medical emergency on campus, according the university’s website.

Originally called the SAVERS, UREMS volunteers have been serving our campus since 2001 alongside the University of Richmond Police Department and Richmond Ambulance Authority. When someone on campus places an emergency call, UREMS is immediately dispatched by both URPD and RAA. UREMS is also present at all home football and men’s basketball games.

“EMS is a lifestyle,” said president Steph Ha. “It’s part of who I am as a student.” But between the 24-hour shifts and the ability the save lives, the 22 first responders who comprise UREMS are not your average Richmond students.

“These students can handle anything that any other rescue squad can,” said Randy Baran, URPD patrol sergeant. “They get a lot of respect from the community as a whole because it’s all on their own time as volunteers.”

Baran, who has been a UREMS adviser for four years, said the students in UREMS showed a lot of professionalism. “I have nothing but good things to say about them.”

UREMS also works in conjunction with RAA, Baran said, which helps the students prepare to work on campus and provides current first responders opportunities for continuing education.

Most of the first responders in UREMS receive their certifications from the Emergency Medical Technician course offered at the university, which meets for four hours, twice a week for approximately six months.

“I took the class on a whim,” said senior Christina Annas. However, once she was certified, she felt obligated to help. “If you’re able to do something, you should do that thing, especially if it’s going to help people.”

The class is now also free to students, said sophomore Chris Clark, chief of operations for UREMS. The university pays for half of the class up-front, and the student pays for the other half. But after a year of service in UREMS, the university will reimburse that student, Clark said.

All newly certified EMTs are required to do three, 12-hour ambulance ride-along shifts and one supervisor ride-along shift with RAA before joining UREMS as a Level-2 provider.

The biggest difference between Level-1 and Level-2 providers in UREMS is that the Level-1 is certified to drive an emergency vehicle, Ha said. Level-1 providers must pass the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course provided by RAA. The emergency vehicle that the students drive on campus is a white SUV that contains supplies such as an oxygen tank, backboards and an AED, Ha said.

Part of what makes UREMS unique, Ha said, is its close working relationship with RAA. Maj. Jason Roach of RAA said he had been proud to serve as the group’s staff adviser/liaison since 2010.

“Every year I have been witness to pure examples of dedication, desire for growth, care for the community and the love for further education,” Roach said. “The organization seeks out the best individuals for the positions and because of that is able to display an enormous level of pride.”

UREMS has won national awards at both the individual and group level, Roach said, which has allowed for the organization to build a strong reputation.

Clark actually came to Richmond partly because of its EMS program, he said. He had already received his EMT certification in high school and started volunteering at Richmond the first semester of his freshman year.

“I first started volunteering because my dad suggested it…and then I kind of fell in love with it,” Clark said.

Clark said he loved the adrenaline of getting a call and going to a scene, which is common among others who work or volunteer in the emergency medical field.

“I do my life as normal and then if the cell phone goes off, I immediately switch into EMT mode and I go respond,” Annas said.

When Annas and others go into “EMT mode,” they must be prepared for any call, anywhere. A hot spot for injuries is the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness.

“I hurt my ankle really badly at an IM game last year,” said sophomore Kayla Flanagan. She was playing basketball when she sprained her ankle, and someone called UREMS for her.

“The night was honestly kind of a blur,” Flanagan said, “but they basically just looked at my ankle, gave me ice and suggested I get my ankle looked at and get X-rays because they thought it was broken.

“They were very nice and helpful. I was so stressed out and they definitely helped a lot.”

More recently, UREMS responded to a call last week when junior Jess Dankenbring had to call URPD in the middle of class. Dankenbring had positive interactions with UREMS that day, she said.

“They were really efficient but also really calming because it’s definitely a really chaotic situation,” she said.

One thing that was particularly important to Dankenbring was that she did not have to keep repeating her story. “I told one person [what happened] and they would just keep communicating, which was really helpful.”

Calls like Flanagan’s and Dankenbring’s are fairly common. Clark said that 32 percent of UREMS’ calls are trauma-related, such as sports injuries on the IM fields or in the gym, compared to the 21 percent of the organization’s calls that are alcohol-related.

Clark debunked the popular misconception that UREMS responds to mostly alcohol-related calls.

“I can certainly understand why people think that, but the majority of the stuff we do is during the day, like I said, at the IM fields or at the gym or, you know, at 4 in the morning when someone just doesn’t feel right they call us.”

Even though UREMS responded to more than 120 calls last semester – which is a higher number than usual – the ratio of trauma-related calls to alcohol-related calls remained the same, Clark said.

No matter the call, UREMS is truly prepared for anything. “It continually pushes me not only as an EMT but just kind of as a person to always continue to learn and grow,” Ha said.

It is inspiring to work with people who are so dedicated and motivated all the time, Ha said. Clark agreed, and said that UREMS was a large friend group and he had formed strong bonds with the people whom he had volunteered with, both at home and at Richmond.

“You have to have a special relationship with someone to be able to walk into situations like that and rely on one another,” Clark said. “It’s just really not comparable to any other activity or hobby you can be involved in.” 

Contact copy editor Rebecca Fradkin at rebecca.fradkin@richmond.edu