Over the last couple of years, as electronic music events have become much more popular, reports of incidents and deaths have continuously been picked up by the media. Young attendees are using various recreational drugs, unaware of their contents and mixing them with alcohol in conditions that increase body temperature and require hydration. It's a dangerous situation if not handled properly. With that in mind, large music festivals have begun to increase on-site medical assistance in an effort to increase patron safety protocols.
ParaDocs Worldwide is a four-year-old event medical emergency service founded by Alex Pollak. They provide immediate on-site services by licensed and trained medical professionals. Currently, ParaDocs has worked with events such as Electric Zoo, Mad Decent Block Party, and Governor's Ball among others. The company also has been working with smaller events such as BangOn NYC!, Robot Heart, Pacha, and Output. Although they are based in NYC, they have grown to become the go-to EMS for large-scale events all over the country.
Alex Pollak has been a paramedic since 1998 and worked for 911 throughout his undergrad and graduate studies. He received an MBA in Finance in 2008 and after he left his job at a hedge fund he began working for a national ME company in their finance department. It was there that he saw a niche market for event medical services. Most festivals at the time would call to have ambulances stationed at the event, but never any proper on-site services.
"What is different about what we do is that instead of having twenty ambulances ready to take anyone that is in serious condition to the hospital, we have doctors and nurses who have the ability to treat most patients on-site."
On-site medical care at events is more effective for two reasons; the hospitals do not get overwhelmed and the care that patients receive is immediate. At music events, if an individual takes certain substances and becomes ill, they receive the care on-site versus transporting them to the nearest hospital which can take a minimum of 10-15 minutes, a crucial amount of time when someone's life is in danger. Over the past couple of years, the ability to treat illness' on-site has developed tremendously, most of the problems are treated right in the medical tents.
Since their involvement at Electric Zoo, ParaDocs has helped to start and develop the Zookeepers program which has since become a non-profit organization called the Ambassadors Program. The Zookeepers were a group of seventy-five paid volunteers who were medical and nursing students. They would roam the music festival, donned in casual attire with bright t-shirts and interacted with the audience. They were trained beforehand and taught what issues to look for. Their purpose was to spot attendees in distress and either encourage them to hydrate or seek medical help from the staff.
This program has been adopted at other music events such as Life in Color and TomorrowWorld. It has proven to be a very effective first line of defense when the medical staff has to be inside the tents treating patients. Pollak also said that the medical stations are deployed upwards of an hour prior to gates being open. Many individuals tend to take their recreational drugs prior to even entering the festival so they're accustomed to having an influx of patients even at the beginning.
Pollak notes that over the past two years, people have become better at seeking help. The case was much different when ParaDocs began operating four years ago. It could be due to media coverage of the recent deaths, but he says that he feels that people have begun to get smarter in regards to their safety and well-being. There are also some trends as to what substances are more popular in what environments. Large electronic music shows have always been a very large MDMA crowd versus the smaller warehouse shows which have had a spike in Ketamine use.
In the last year or two, Ketamine has begun to appear more and more throughout smaller events in Brooklyn. The company has treated a lot of cases involving patrons experiencing K-Holes. Most interestingly enough, modern medical practices are encouraging emergency medical services to use ketamine in lieu of other benzodiazepines. An agitated or seizing patient will be induced into a k-hole to help with treatment. However, there is a HUGE difference between ketamine administered by medical professionals and it being used recreationally at events.
It is important to remember that ParaDocs Worldwide are there to help you. Their staff and team are young and approachable and they aren't the police. There are no legal repercussions for coming in and seeking help. They have a revolving door policy, meaning if you go in for treatment, you will most likely be released back out into the festival, once you feel better. The festival/event promoters are paying for them to be there so you won't see any bill for anything, it's free care!
So next time you are at an event and you feel that you or your friend are not doing so well, seek out help from the nearby medical staff. Even if it is just for some fresh water and a conversation. They are there to keep you from being sick and able to have a wonderful experience.