Colleges across South Carolina educate their students about how to respond in emergencies, but specific emergency response policies vary from school to school.
Last month, Wofford College student Randall Heffron died after choking on a piece of pizza in a Spartanburg dorm room. Heffron’s mother refused to blame anyone for her son’s death but suggested that it could have been prevented if more-effective emergency procedures were followed.
In response, Patch asked seven South Carolina colleges about their advice for students in similar situations.
Three schools — the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and Charleston Southern University — said they advised students to dial 9-1-1 without hesitation during an emergency.
Other schools, including USC Upstate and Furman, said they told students to call campus police.
“Our students come from all over the country,” Furman director of media relations Vince Moore said. “Their cell phones, when they dial 9-1-1, don’t tell first-responders where they are. Our University Police will immediately meet and escort emergency responders to the appropriate locations since they often are not familiar with campus buildings.”
Similarly, training for resident assistants varies at different schools.
Resident assistants at all of the schools are told to contact university or local police in the event of an emergency.
USC Upstate said that its resident assistants were trained in CPR and first aid, but that they were still instructed to contact university police.
All of the schools surveyed also said they had trained police, security or EMS who were capable of performing CPR and other life-saving strategies.
Most of the colleges, including Furman, Columbia College and Clemson, have their own on-campus police and thus do not need to consult outside law enforcement. Others, like Charleston Southern, only have security guards and rely on local law enforcement agencies in emergency situations.
In Heffron's case, it is unclear whether the emergency response contributed to his death, but there were delays in emergency calls and response.
Heffron's dormmates found him on the floor of a hallway bathroom between midnight and 12:15 a.m. on Sept. 10, but Wofford College campus security was not called until after 12:20 a.m.
At 12:27 a.m., according to dispatch records, campus security Officer Matt Gibson had to leave the dormitory to pick up a cell signal to call 9-1-1.
EMS arrived at Heffron's side between 12:33 a.m. and 12:40 a.m., and he was transported to the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center at 12:58. He was pronounced dead 13 minutes later.