AUSTIN (KXAN) — UT Austin Students are trying to rally support — both from their peers and from the university administration — for dedicated, on-campus emergency services. Notably, they want trained student volunteers to staff this service, responding on bikes and by foot to give immediate care when a crisis happens.
Jason Taper, the campus safety policy co-director for UT Student Government, was on campus back in May of 2017 when the deadly stabbing attack broke out on campus.
“It was terrifying,” he recalled.
“Really, we just want to be proactive I guess and make sure that when the worst case happens that we’re ready,” Taper said, referring to the proposal for on-campus EMS student government has now sent to Campus Safety.
He explained that this emergency medical service wouldn’t have students transporting people in ambulances, but rather getting to injured people on campus immediately after they are hurt. Taper got involved in this effort after an EMT-trained friend of his struck out with a previous effort to get an on-campus EMS system.
“It is something that affects literally the life of every student on campus, so I think it’s a very important thing to be talking about,” Taper said.
While the campus is bike and pedestrian friendly, Taper noted he has seen cars and even ambulances stalled at some of the barriers and roadblocks made to ease congestion on campus. All the more reason, he says, that bike patrols could be a good option.
“There’s a very a large amount of criteria that will have to be crossed if we ever get to initiating any of these services on campus,” explained Jimmy Johnson, the Assistant Vice President for campus safety at UT.
Johnson is evaluating what funding and liability would come with the student government proposal. When he’s finished his recommendations will go up the chain to UT leadership.
“I think certainly the students have put a proposal forward that is well written and certainly has some value and merit,” Johnson said. He added that students have been talking about something like this for years.
According to UT Student Government analysis of ACTEMS data, the average time it took EMS to get to the scene of on-campus emergencies was 9.1 minutes (regardless of call priority), though KXAN was not able to independently confirm those numbers with ACTEMS by the time this story aired.
Taper worried that the response times were slower than they could be.
Captain Darren Noak with Austin Travis County EMS explained that ACTEMS response times to campus (and the city of Austin as a whole) are compliant with the established local standards.
“Anytime we’re able to add another layer that would enhance our coverage is certainly something that we would support,” Noak said of this student proposal.
He noted that corporate campuses in the Austin area have similar supplementary services which can help out in an emergency.
Noak said the UT Campus presents certain challenges for first responders, for example when foot traffic is heavy in between classes or if the entrance to a building is far away from where the injured person is.
Other university campuses, such as Rice and Texas A&M, also have their own campus-based EMS systems.
The University has also made a push following the two student deaths on campus to improve campus security. This October, Johnson said the campus will have installed “safety hubs” in every building of the main UT Austin campus, with each containing things like an AED, a police call button, and a stop-the-bleed kit. Next, the university will be looking to put these safety hubs at the J.J. Pickle campus.
UT students have started working to train their fellow longhorns over the past year in trauma response through the “Stop the Bleed” program.