When a Geneseo First Response volunteer dashes out of the room in the middle of class, most don't pay it a second thought. This vital vigilance, however, is indicative of GFR's dedication to responding to emergencies as quickly as possible to save lives.
Since 1974, GFR has provided emergency care to students across campus. Though it was originally formed to serve on nights and weekends when the Lauderdale Health Center was closed, GFR now operates 24/7.
GFR is contacted for benign accidents like small cuts, as well as extreme incidents such as impaled objects, dislocations, shattered limbs and head injuries. They are a basic life support first response unit. They assume responsibility for treating people immediately at the scene, after which the Geneseo Fire Department transports patients to the hospital if necessary.
There are many different certifications within GFR, including EMT basic (EMT-B), EMT critical care (EMT-CC) and EMT paramedic (EMT-P). Junior Jon Berardi, EMT-CC and captain of GFR, oversees the squad of 90 members, making sure trainings are completed, people are on duty and medical supplies are fully stocked. Shifts of duty range from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. - 8 a.m. At every hour of the day, GFR members have to be committed to "get up and go," as Berardi put it, when called.
Crew chiefs play a crucial role in GFR. There are only 13 on the squad, and one must be on duty for every shift. "A typical day of being on duty includes classes, friends, normal stuff," Berardi said. He emphasized that no matter what one is doing, he or she must be ready to respond to any emergency any time while on duty.
According to Berardi, weekends are the busiest for such calls. "There are more people visiting on campus and the health center is closed," he said, "so GFR is called instead."
For Berardi, the best part of his involvement in GFR is "being able to give back to the community and being available." On the flip side, being on duty does have its low points: "Sleep can become an issue," Berardi said. "The members are dedicated and don't mind it. They are willing to miss sleep to help the students here."
Last week, GFR was featured on PBS for the measures taken to save the life of Kevin Oill, a junior, when he went into cardiac arrest in January 2006. Matt Carr, also a junior, and senior Charlie Bueche, both members of GFR and both off-duty at the time, were with Oill when he went into cardiac arrest. Carr and Bueche immediately called 911. Berardi was the crew chief on duty at the time.
"In under two minutes I arrived with a defibrillator and CPR was in progress," Berardi said. "I delivered one shock and then proceeded with one minute of CPR. His [Oill's] pulse returned and he's still alive today."
Oill, Carr, Bueche and Berardi are all brothers in the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu. "Knowing that we had a part in our friend's life today," Berardi said. "That's the ultimate meaning in brotherhood."
Partly due to their feature on PBS, GFR is getting more recognition and praise today than ever before, including a feature piece in Geneseo Scenes, the alumni magazine. "It's rare to have someone say 'Thanks' at three in the morning," Berardi said. "No one walks away with hard feelings. The membership deserves a big 'thank you.'"