The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Members of Penn’s Medical Emergency Response Team rode into Center City to provide medical support for the papal visit. | Courtesy of Sara Jones

Over the weekend, the Medical Emergency Response Team responded to a volume of calls comparable to that of Spring Fling. But MERT wasn’t responding to drunken college students this time — instead, they were working off campus, monitoring the Pope festivities.

Philadelphia relied on volunteers to staff the World Meeting of Families, and when it came to emergency personnel, the plan was no different. During the summer, the Pennsylvania Regional EMS councils sent an email to all certified EMTs in the state of Pennsylvania, requesting help in staffing the Pope’s visit. Unfortunately, the MERT team didn’t have enough bikes to staff the event.

In late August, a meeting was held with members of the Division of Public Safety and other medical and public safety officials. MERT received a grant of 22 extra bikes and equipment in order to adequately provide their members with the tools they needed to help out with the event. MERT Medical Director Alvin Wang facilitated internal training for all MERT members leading up to the weekend, and DPS Chief of Fire and Emergency Services Eugene Janda assisted with communication with the Philadelphia Fire Department.

The next problem that MERT encountered was the liability issue, since Penn is held liable for any MERT activities.

“We were all registered under the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps so that the medical and personal liability was shifted from Penn to the city,” College senior and MERT Chief Sara Jones said.

The MRC is a network in the United States of community-based units initiated and established by local organizations to meet the health needs of their communities.

After being trained on proper procedure and common medical conditions that are recorded in sizable crowds, the MERT team was split up and stationed in Zones one through four, with Zone one being closest to the pope on stage. MERT members were given radios to communicate with local fire departments as well.

“We encountered seizures, allergic reactions, fainting,” Jones said about the event. One of the members of the team was lucky enough to be the EMT behind the pope on stage and caught some screen time on the live broadcast as well.

“From a medical perspective, it was really cool, but also from the whole field of emergency response planning — seeing all the planning and work that go into one event is very cool,“ Jones said.

Between the 22 members of MERT, they earned 342 total crew hours, working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.