With NSO alcohol incidents common, MERT prepares for calls


Last NSO, 12 students were transported to the hospital


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Members of Penn’s Medical Emergency Response Team attended to about 65 “victims” at a simulated chemical spill for their 4th Mass Casualty Incident Drill last November. The team cleared the simulation hour in about 30 minutes, improving on last year’s time



As freshmen are moving onto campus this fall, Penn’s Medical Emergency Response Team is preparing for the inevitable calls they will receive about students who drink too much alcohol during New Student Orientation.

Sixty-five MERT members — all of whom have received professional training in emergency medical assistance — will be on call this Friday in order to assist students who need medical attention, MERT Captain Omar Sobh explained. Each MERT team that is deployed will have “at least one member with extensive Emergency Medical Services experience,” Sobh said.

Last NSO, 12 students — five male and seven female — were transported to the hospital. However, that is the lowest figure of NSO hospital transports in the past four years.

In 2012, 30 students were transported to the hospital due to alcohol-related incidents.

In 2011, 21 students were transported for the same reason.

In 2010, 31 students — the highest number in the past four years — were transported to the hospital for alcohol-related reasons.

When students feel like they have drunk too much alcohol, they can call MERT to receive the help they need. 

“We provide first response to medical emergencies on campus, anywhere between 30th Street and 43rd Street, and between Baltimore and Market,” Sobh explained.

Sobh emphasized that students shouldn’t be afraid to call MERT due to the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy, which states that if an underage student is not feeling well due to drinking alcohol, calling MERT would not result in any punishment against the student. However, a student could be punished for some other violation they committed while intoxicated.

“Our team members are all Penn students, so students shouldn’t be afraid to call MERT,” Sobh said. “We are always happy to work with people when they are not feeling well.”

In responding to medical emergencies, MERT collaborates with the Division of Public Safety and the Philadelphia Fire Department. To reach MERT, students should call DPS at 215-573-3333. So don’t hang up if you hear someone from Penn Police on the other end, Sobh warned — DPS dispatches MERT teams to respond to medical-related calls.

After a call is placed, a Philadelphia Fire Department ambulance, a Penn Police officer and a MERT team will head to the location reported in the call. MERT takes only about four minutes to respond to the scene, Sobh said, “as we are a lot more familiar with the campus.”

MERT team members travel on bicycles and usually arrive first, Sobh said. After arriving at the scene, MERT members will carry out assessments and make a determination about further treatment.

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