Stifling temperatures and humidity caused six people to pass out at the Scarsdale High School graduation on Friday, June 22 – and another 15-20 to be treated for heat-related symptoms.
Fortunately, Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps came prepared. Due to the weather forecast and reports of heat-related problems at a graduation in New Britain, CT earlier in the week, David Raizen, President of SCARVAC, put plans in place to deal with heat stroke. But even with his extensive preparations, firemen and police had to be brought in to assist when so many started to pass out.
After getting panicked calls for help, SCARVAC workers went into the stands with stretchers to remove those who were stricken. According to Raizen, it took four SCARVAC workers to lift each affected person – and once the numbers grew, he quickly realized that the 12 SCARVAC workers already on the scene would need more help. So, in addition to the ten EMT’s and two paramedics, eight firefighters and seven policemen came to the school including Chiefs Brogan and Cain.
The passed out guests were brought to two tents erected on the side of Dean Field and some were put into the ambulances that were also parked in the lot. These ambulances were air conditioned and worked as cooling stations. Those who could walk were placed under a sprinkler and drenched in cool water to restore their body temperatures. In total, six were unconscious including five older people and one young lady in her twenties. Two of the six were taken to the hospital but later released.
Raizen had come prepared with 100 pounds of ice, donated by Fenway Golf Club and 1,200 cups of water and Gatorade which were distributed to guests as they entered the field. He brought fans fitted above ice water that could cool down the overheated and stretchers to move those collapsed from heat stroke. He had pre-arranged with the Police and Fire Chief to send in reinforcements if more fell than his staff could handle – and fortunately emergency staff arrived quickly.
Though the chaos in the stands was not evident to those in front, guests who were in the bleachers saw other collapse and watched as they were taken away during the ceremony. Some complained that there was not sufficient seating and therefore many stood, exacerbating the risks.
Raizen, an EMT for 35 years, says lessons were learned from the experience. In the future, he plans to move the tents and ambulances right onto the field, and also thinks that it would be better to have graduation in the afternoon, when the entire field is in the shade.
Police Chief Brogan credits Raizen and his crew with “excellent planning.” He said they “anticipated the problem and took appropriate measures before it even arose.”
“When the problem began, they were ready for it and had all the pieces in place for a desirable resolution.”
(Pictured at left: EMT's treat victims of heat stroke in tent at Dean Field)
See our coverage of graduation and a photo gallery of the ceremony here: