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Friday, August 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 78.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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UW-Madison students double as first responders
Volunteers already hold EMT licenses
Student first responders primarily work football games and other popular events.
Student first responders primarily work football games and other popular events.
Credit:UW-Madison Police

Besides warnings about alcohol and sexual assault, the UW Police Department's September newsletter contains a story about a group of student volunteers performing "bleeding/wound care, spinal immobilization and advanced airway management."

If the image of some 18-year-old sprinting over from the Camp Randall student section to immobilize your spine is less than reassuring, relax. These are the UWPD First Responders.

"If you've never heard of us, you've probably never needed our services. So that's a good thing," says Bill Curtis, UW police emergency management supervisor.

"It is staffed by students of UW-Madison who [already] hold an emergency medical technician basic license," he says. "The primary purpose of the program is to provide educational offerings to its members through monthly training."

The program started in 2007. First Responders primarily cover home football games and respond to campus emergencies on Friday and Saturday nights during the school year.

They were also at the Badger Bash celebration at Union South before the recent football home opener. "An individual actually had a seizure," says Curtis, "and with teamwork we were able to quickly reach the patient and help them prior to the Madison Fire Department arriving and providing advanced life support."

You'll also find First Responders at the various runs and races that pass through campus, at some high-impact UW recreational sporting events, and at other significant occasions.

"When President Obama came to campus we had five teams of three First Responders providing medical coverage on Bascom Hill and along the entry route where everyone was lined up," says Curtis.

It's an all-volunteer program, but students receive training and recertification. "It allows them to gain experience in the emergency medical field, and it provides UW-Madison with medical coverage we might not have if it were not for the First Responders," notes Curtis.

They're dispatched by UW police and typically work directly with UW officers and liaise with the Madison police and fire departments.

"The UWPD First Responders program is the type of community partnership that is at the core of our policing philosophy," says Joel DeSpain, spokesman for the Madison Police Department. He says the Madison and UW police departments work closely together "policing the greater campus community, and we encourage students to volunteer and become part of the First Responders program."

Most First Responders are pre-med students or are going into a similar field, though "we have accountants, engineers -- anyone with interest in the emergency medical field," says Curtis. The program is also open to faculty and staff.

Currently there are 42 First Responders. "We're always looking for new members," says Curtis. "Our primary recruiting time is now through the fall."

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