UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > May 2001 Search


May 2001

MERT: UCAR's medical safety net

Members of the Foothills MERT. (Front row, left to right) Marcia Politovich, Nancy Norris, Milli Butterworth, Niles Oien; (Back row, left to right) Jim Menghi, Terri Cantrell. (MERT photos courtesy Carol Manteuffel.)

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you suffered a sudden illness or injury at work? Perhaps you're peddling pedaling your bike up the mesa road when you have a close encounter with a patch of gravel, or you slip and twist your ankle as you walk down the stairs to your office. What if your Kansas relatives visit the Mesa Lab and experience a sudden bout of altitude sickness? These are but a few of the situations that will prompt an immediate response from UCAR's Medical Emergency Response Team.

MERT is a group of employee volunteers, drawn from all UCAR sites, who receive training in basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which enables them to care for an ill or injured person until an ambulance or fire-department squad arrives. MERT teams work closely with Pridemark, Boulder's local ambulance company, to coordinate community response to emergencies and to obtain supplementary training.

UCAR's MERT began in 1992, when Barb Petruzzi, (now with PPS), was summoned to help an employee with an ankle sprain. Barb was teaching first aid and CPR at the Boulder office of the American Red Cross at the time, and she subsequently worked with Steve Sadler (SaSS director) to recruit other employee volunteers for the team. Marcia Politovich was one of the early recruits; she currently heads up the FL team.

What should an employee do when a co-worker or visitor is sick or injured? Call the emergency number (in red on every phone). At ML or FL, the call will be sent first to the front reception desks, where the emergency will be assessed. The caller must convey

Members of the Mesa MERT. (Front row, left to right) Richard Johnson, Lana Soller, Joey Comeaux; (Back row, left to right) Steve Gombosi, Gary New, Kerry Slaven, Stan McLaughlin. Not pictured: Sylvia Murphy.

The front-desk receptionist will page MERT and may call Boulder's 911 dispatch for additional help. MERT team members, who carry emergency supply kits (including oxygen tanks), will respond within two to three minutes to assess the situation and to offer help if necessary. Often, this may be as simple as calming an individual until professionals arrive, holding an ice pack on a swollen wrist, or providing oxygen to a visitor who is suffering from altitude sickness. In a more serious situation, such as a diabetic seizure or heart attack, MERT provides standard first aid or begins CPR procedures and stays with the injured party until the paramedics arrive, usually within five to seven minutes.

With its scenic location, high altitude, and over 75,000 visitors each year, the Mesa Lab averages 10–12 medical emergencies annually (Foothills averages 3–4 each year). According to Lana Soller, MERT leader at ML, "75 to 80% of all emergency calls are related to visitors. Some of our elderly visitors are not in the best shape, and they may experience angina or shortness of breath after walking into the building from the parking lot. Also, kids [who are here with school groups] hurt themselves while running." Typically, five or six MERT members respond to an emergency. According to Lana, "in a critical case, two or three team members may be performing CPR or administering oxygen while someone is sent to wait for the ambulance and others keep onlookers at bay or take down important information to document the call."

Training is important, and team members meet regularly to improve procedures. All team members are re-certified in basic skills annually. Some members have completed the more advanced First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) courses. Additionally, members are encouraged to complete safety courses through UCAR's staff development program. A few MERT members volunteer during their nonwork hours with area fire departments.

Members of the Pearl Street MERT. (Left to right) Clark Gruber, Steve Hinson, Anita Monk-Ryan.

MERT includes both full- and part-time employees at all four UCAR locations in Boulder: ML, FL, PS, and JEFFCO. MERT members are available at UCAR-wide events like the upcoming Spring Fling (11 May at FL) and the Up-the-Hill Races in the fall. Team members have also proven invaluable on field projects, particularly in remote locations, since they are able to assist fellow employees with sudden illnesses or injuries until professional help arrives.

JEFFCO MERT members (no photo available): Bill Irwin, John Cowan, Bruce Morley.

MERT is currently seeking additional volunteers. All current UCAR employees are welcome to join. You do not have to work full time, nor do you need to have a medical or first-aid background. Team members are provided with ongoing, company-paid first-aid and CPR training, a pager to wear during business hours, and a team jacket. Colorado's Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection for volunteers who render initial first aid in an emergency situation and work within their level of training and skill. To find out more about volunteering, contact Lana Soller (ML, ext. 1244), Marcia Politovitch (FL, ext. 8499), or Carol Manteuffel (SaSS, ext. 8544).

• Nancy Norris (HR)


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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > May 2001 Search

Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Mon May 21 14:55:25 MDT 2001