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Penn Public Safety: Policy on Medical Emergencies

To Members of the Penn Community:

The Division of Public Safety has been examining the Penn police department's response to calls for service involving injuries and/or illness for members of the Penn community, including students, faculty and staff.

Penn police officers are trained as "First Responders" by the American Red Cross. Routinely, our officers respond to medical calls ranging from minor medical cases, such as broken fingers, up to severe medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, seizures, etc.

In order to provide the most effective medical response for our community we recently engaged in discussions with the Philadelphia Fire Department to ascertain what the proper role of the UPPD should be in medical emergencies and to benchmark best practices regarding this issue among police agencies across the country.

As a result, we have issued a new medical response policy within the UPPD. We would like to share this policy with you and ask that you forward this letter to members within your division. --T.M.S.

Emergency Medical Policy

It is the policy of the Division of Public Safety (DPS) to treat all "Emergency Hospital Cases" calls as emergency situations unless advised otherwise by a medically competent person. For purposes of this policy all "Emergency Hospital Cases" are defined as: heart attacks, chest pains, seizures, strokes, shock, overdoses (including alcohol), diabetic emergencies, unconsciousness, poisoning, broken bones, back or neck injuries, serious penetrating wounds such as gun shot or stab wounds, choking or breathing difficulties, severe burns, severe bleeding, women in labor, etc. In all of these types of cases the DPS dispatcher will immediately notify the Philadelphia Fire Department's Rescue unit (medics).

UPPD officers will immediately respond to the medical emergency and will, if appropriate, render first aid until the arrival of the Fire department rescue unit. The UPPD will only transport medical emergencies to the hospital upon the direction of the Fire Department rescue unit medical personnel.

Although it may appear to be more expedient for the police to immediately transport a person experiencing a medical emergency to the hospital prior to the arrival of the Fire Rescue personnel, it is not the most effective response. It is far safer and more productive for the "First Responder" (a Penn police officer) to, if possible, stabilize the person at the scene and await the medics arrival. If the person's condition should deteriorate in route to the hospital, the medics will have the equipment and expertise to handle such an emergency.

Medical Escorts, i.e. follow up medical appointments, minor cuts or abrasions, cold symptoms, etc. will continue to be transported to the Student Health Department or HUP by Penn Transit.

Thank you for your assistance in communicating this policy. If you desire any clarification on this policy, please feel free to call me at 898-7515.

--Thomas M. Seamon,
Managing Director of Public Safety

Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, November 4, 1997, Volume 44, No. 11