This past Saturday, the POWER peer education program held its Red Watch Band Movement.
This program teaches students the proper skills to save a life, recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning and help another student who may need medical attention.
This program is not just at our University.
“The program itself came about because a professor at Stony Brook University’s son died his freshman year at Northwestern University due to accidental alcohol overdose,” said Kimberly Hill, coordinator of Peer Education Programs at the University. “It was a night of drinking, he passed out, and his friends brought him back to his room and he actually got worse and died.”
The president of Stony Brook University at the time, Shirley Strum Kenny, and the professor, Suzanne Fields, teamed up to create the Red Watch Band Movement.
While the program unfortunately came about due to the death of an 18-year-old, its hope is to prevent those kinds of tragedies from happening.
“This program is two-fold,” Hill said. “First, the participants go through CPR training and they receive two years certification through the American Heart Association. The second portion is a discussion about safe drinking, ways to drink responsibly and how to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning.”
“That portion is facilitated by myself and POWER Peer Educators,” Hill added. “We incorporate a realistic scenario to help students understand when to intervene.”
The student participants are presented with real life situations, which is followed by a conversation about appropriate ways to intervene and prevent unsafe situations due to alcohol consumption.
A popular topic of discussion is how to intervene when other students don’t believe anything is wrong and discourage others from getting help.
The CPR training is just one part of the program.
While it’s a very important skill to have and can save a life, what is stressed even more in the program is that students have the necessary background knowledge of warning signs of alcohol poisoning and unsafe drinking to back up their CPR certification.
It’s one thing to know how to use these skills, but it’s another thing altogether to know when and where to use them. The University began this program two years ago. It is held each semester.
“We thought it was a great cause,” Hill said. “We are fortunate that in my years here there has not been a death due to alcohol. This is not a dry campus, students do drink.”
Fortunately, there was no one reason—such as an increase in alcohol related issues or a tragedy—that prompted the University to implement this program.
“It’s our responsibility as the Office of Health Promotion and POWER peer educators to teach students to 1: drink responsibly and 2: know the signs of danger should a problem arise,” Hill said. “It’s proactive. We don’t want to be reactive.”
For last Saturday’s events, there were 17 students registered for the program.
Each semester, the number of students that can enroll must be capped. Over the past two years there have been over 100 students who have participated in the program.
Each student participant receives a folder at the event with all of the Red Watch Band material inside, and also receives a red sport watch that POWER peer educators would like them to wear.
“If you’re at a party and see someone with a red watch and are afraid to tell an RA or call VEMS—these people are there to help,” Hill said.
“It has [been well received],” Hill said. “We typically have a waiting list. It is now a professional development for RAs. All peer educators go through the program. There has never been a semester when we can’t fill the spots. There’s always interest.”
Though only in its second year, there is already evidence that this program is a powerful and helpful tool for students.
“Our very first time doing this we had a student who used this within 24 hours and it actually saved a student’s life,” Hill said.
This Saturday’s program was successful and students enjoyed being able to interact with their peers and learn how to help.
“Post-program evaluations demonstrate that students had an increase in their understanding of the negative impacts of drinking, factors that contribute to alcohol poisoning and an increase in their confidence level of intervening if necessary,” Hill said.
It is clear that this program is more than a few tips and tricks in emergency medical services.
By offering training in CPR and how to react to alcohol poisoning, students can learn how to save a life.