While LSU football fans are gearing up for the first home game against Northwestern State University on Saturday, first responders also are preparing for when the crowded area around Tiger Stadium becomes a “city within a city.”
Combine a Tigers home game with the Southern University Jaguars hosting Alabama A&M in A.W. Mumford Stadium, and East Baton Rouge Parish Emergency Medical Services spokesman Mike Chustz said a double home game day becomes one of the busiest days of the year for medics in Baton Rouge.
“Aside from a disaster like a hurricane when everyone is working every day, we have more people working on these double home game days than any other day of the year,” Chustz said.
LSU and Southern also have home games this season Oct. 8, when Florida comes to Tiger Stadium, which seats more than 92,000 people, and Prairie View visits A.W. Mumford Stadium, which seats more than 28,000.
Upwards of 20 medics are stationed around LSU on game days while about 12 medics respond to calls around Southern, Chustz said.
The medics use bicycles, utility carts, sprint vehicles and ambulances to respond to calls varying from heat exhaustion to falls to heart attacks, Chustz said. Heat-related complications are the most common calls, he said.
EMS receives 20 to 30 calls for assistance on an average LSU home game and about 10 calls for games at Southern, Chustz said.
But the LSU game against Florida in 2007 brought the most calls in recent years with more than 60 calls for assistance, Chustz said.
An informal survey of EMS personnel in other Southern cities where “heat is the big enemy” revealed that East Baton Rouge EMS sees about the same number of calls as other college towns on game days, Chustz said.
EMS has off-duty paramedics working specifically around the stadiums and a dispatcher to field only fans’ calls so normal day-to-day operations are not affected by the influx in calls, Chustz said.
Representatives from various agencies met recently to review improvements made to the communications system between all first responders, Chustz said.
The agencies represented at meeting included LSU Police; Baton Rouge Police; Louisiana State Police; the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office; the state Department of Public Safety; and the Baton Rouge Fire Department, he said.
Officials from each agency worked during the past year to streamline radio communication between agencies, helping to reduce the response times to calls, said LSU Police spokesman Capt. Cory LaLonde.
All the agencies working to keep tailgaters safe this weekend also have a representative present in a central location on game days to monitor radio activity and coordinate responses, LaLonde said.
EMS personnel spent the week preparing for Saturday; testing equipment; stocking up on supplies; meeting with other agencies and setting up their command post, Chustz said.
The EMS command post is set up near the corner of Nicholson Drive and Nicholson Drive Extension. Officials can respond to major situations but can also help anyone in needing pain relievers, ice packs or bandaging of minor cuts, Chustz said.
When tailgaters stay in the sun for hours on LSU’s campus during warmer months, Chustz said they need to take precautions to prevent heat-related complications.
Chustz advised spectators to limit alcohol and caffeine consumption. Tailgaters should also drink at least one bottle of water or sports drink every hour, but two bottles per hour is preferable. Other tips are to eat regularly; wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and stay in a shaded area.
Signs of overheating and dehydration include feeling dizzy or faint; or experiencing leg cramps; shortness of breath; abdominal cramps; increased heart rate; and profuse sweating, Chustz said.
Do not put anyone feeling these symptoms in a car to “sleep it off,” Chustz said.
If someone becomes unresponsive, he said, call 911 immediately.