Red Watch Band: What is it and When is it Happening?

Every year, the Student Wellness Center presents Red Watch Band to all first-year students on Marquette’s campus, which is “a comprehensive bystander intervention program designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills and awareness to prevent death from toxic drinking.” This program has been presented to Marquette Students for 7 years since 2015 and reaches over 1,000 students every year. Typically, Red Watch Band is presented to first-year students in the fall semester of every new school year, but due to staffing changes and the pandemic, it has been presented in the spring for the past two years.

It is important that students get this training as soon as possible since toxic drinking is often seen for the first time when entering college. Red Watch Band is an immensely important intervention program that helps the Marquette Community gain the resources they need to protect themselves and each other from emergency situations surrounding alcohol.

In 2009, Michael Sunshine, then a student at Northwestern University, died of an alcohol overdose at a party surrounded by friends who thought he was sleeping it off. His mother, the director of the medical clinic at Stonybrook University, and another Stonybrook administrator decided to begin this program to educate students nationwide about how to recognize the signs of alcohol overdoses, so Michael did not die in vain. It is called the Red Watch Band because red symbolizes danger or emergency and watch because as a member of the Red Watch Band, you are taking responsibility to watch over your peers.

Over 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.

These deaths are not only tragedies for the family, but the campus community and neighboring communities as well. These deaths are preventable, which is why Marquette University is working so hard to educate students on alcohol-related dangers.

This program is delivered by two Wellness Peer Educators to groups of 100+ students for an interactive, 45–60-minute presentation via Microsoft Teams. The presentation goes over the Good Samaritan Policy, facts about alcohol and the biphasic effect, myth busters, and signs of a life-threatening alcohol overdose that require an emergency phone call.

The key takeaway we want students to know is that every second counts, and if a friend or someone they know cannot be woken up, gets sick and does not wake up, is breathing slowly, or has cold/clammy/altered skin, then medical attention must be called.

To get help, call 911 or MUPD at (414) 288–1911, gather as much information about the person you are calling for such as their name and what they’ve consumed, and stay with the person until help arrives. Red Watch Band training creates a safer campus environment when students are trained on how and when to intervene and creates confidence in students to do the right thing and call for help.

We asked one of our Wellness Peer Educators, Simon Werven, why he believes Red Watch Band is important:

“I enjoy the Red Watch Band Training because it teaches the art of care — necessary care for people who direly need it. Toxic drinking deaths are preventable, and Red Watch Band instructs potential lifesavers in the art of alcohol overdose intervention. Whether or not someone chooses to drink alcohol, knowing when someone needs medical attention for an alcohol overdose is an invaluable skill. Teaching this to freshman equips them with the knowledge and confidence to act, if needed, throughout their college career and beyond. The training not only benefits those who receive it, but also their friends, family, teammates, roommates, etc. In the Marquette community, Red Watch Band attempts to foster just that: a community. A community composed of unique individuals from different backgrounds who strive towards the same goal. That goal is to have each other’s backs, especially in life-threatening situations. I enjoy the Red Watch Band Training because it proves that we all have the potential to be super at alcohol overdose interventions — to be the heroes needed to save someone’s life.”

Red Watch band presentations will be given this year from Sunday, February 13th to Monday, February 28th via Microsoft Teams and the Student Wellness Center is excited to begin working with students as we have been preparing since January! If you are a first-year student, make sure to take your selfie at the end of the presentation and bring it to the Wellness Center to get your free RWB T-shirt and wristband!

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Marquette University Student Wellness Center

We are committed to advancing the overall health and wellbeing of the students at Marquette University through comprehensive wellness services and programming.