Earlier this month, the Student Emergency Medical Services (SEMS) Foundation launched its “DrinkSafe” application for the Apple iPhone. The nonprofit is based in Boulder, and was in part launched by University of Colorado students and Matthew W. Beres, SEMS Foundation’s executive director, a former professional research assistant at CU’s Institute of Behavioral Science’s Natural Hazards Center.
The SEMS Foundation seeks to educate college students about alcohol and drug hazards and to train them to deal with precarious situations in which alcohol is involved. It uses a peer-topeer approach, providing scholarships for outstanding SEMS members (often leaders in student groups or members of the Greek system) who are committed to changing the cultures of excessive drinking on their respective campuses.
According to the SEMS Foundation website, there have been 1,700 drinking-related deaths at colleges across the United States. SEMS also cites statistics from CollegeDrinkingPrevention.
gov that pinpoint alcohol as the root cause of 599,000 injuries and 696,000 assaults at colleges.
“We want to provide students with instant access to information pertaining to the specific situation they are in so that they can prevent, identify and intervene when potential alcohol overdose situations arise and act accordingly,” says Erik Fransen, SEMS’ director of marketing and administration.
The growing popularity of iPhone applications made the platform seem like a natural fit for the foundation’s mission.
Fransen designed the app along with Joseph Theodore Young, an emergency room physician. In mere months, they had a working prototype for the app. It has several features, including a BAC (blood alcohol content) calculator, a hangover meter and a drinking log to track consumption.
“The app has a wide range of features, but the most beneficial is the ‘Drunk Assessment,’” says Fransen.
He says that a problem among inexperienced drinkers is the tendency to, in his words, “let their peers sleep it off.”
“Having this assessment right in one’s pocket takes away the guessing if someone is in need of help,” he says.
The SEMS Foundation plans to target student groups and inter-fraternity councils nationwide to market its application. According to a press release, the app has even been downloaded in Europe and Australia.
There is concern that such an app will facilitate and possibly encourage underage drinking. Fransen says this is a misconception.
“We do not promote, support, or condone underage drinking,” he says, “but acknowledge that it is a reality that needs to be faced. We feel that if someone is going to make the decision to drink that they should know how to do so more responsibly and be able to recognize the dangerous consequences of over-consumption.”
The app can be downloaded for $1 from the SEMS Foundation website at www.semsfoundation.org or bit.ly/DrinkSafe.