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Student team provides fast response to medical emergencies

The response to medical emergencies on campus will be faster than ever this year, due to a change in 9-1-1 dispatch procedures.

Through the new process, the campus EMRG (Emergency Medical Response Group) is alerted and can respond to emergencies before the arrival of the paramedics. The student-run volunteer team has three members on duty at all times to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty on campus.

“The benefits to faster responses are huge,” says U of T Scarborough student Jocelyn Paul, one of the founding members of the EMRG team. “Now we can get to people minutes faster. Also, the ambulance will know that we are there and it won’t be a surprise to them. It improves the relationship with the paramedics and eases patient transfer. For example, if we know it’s a spinal injury, we know to take our back board with us right away.”

The team has responded to more than 150 calls since September, which demonstrates that EMRG is a much-needed service on campus, she says. “It makes sense for a campus the size of U of T Scarborough to have a response team in place. The other campuses also have event-based response teams, but ours is 24/7”.

Paul, who is a final-year student in integrated biology and health studies, plans to enter medical school next year. She first got involved with EMRG in 2003 when the standard operating procedures were set up. Over the next two years the group received the university’s approval and obtained facilities to start the services. The team has never had difficulty garnering volunteers, with more than 100 applications received in the first recruitment campaign.

The team now has 55 volunteers who are trained in CPR-C, which includes cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, standard first aid, emergency response and the use of the automated external defibrillator, which they received approval to purchase. Some volunteers are students enrolled in the paramedicine program, so the experience provides practical training for the students as well as enhancing the overall emergency safety services.

Superintendent Darcy Griffith, Manager of Police Services, says the presence of the student EMRG team enhances the safety services on campus.

“They are a valuable addition to our campus safety resources and it’s great to have them here,” he said. “We’re glad to have the EMRG team as partners in campus safety, and we look forward to continuing our great relationship.”

The EMRG team was instrumental in making a change to the procedure in setting up a direct 9-1-1 EMS (Emergency Medical Services) dispatch system, Griffith says. “Now when someone on campus phones 9-1-1, the Toronto EMS calls us at campus police to notify us that an ambulance has been called, and they share with us the nature of the emergency. The campus police can call EMRG if we know there is a medical emergency, and there is a quick response even before the ambulance shows up.”

“Not only are we one of the fastest response teams in Canada, we are the fastest growing team, due to the support we get,” says Paul. EMRG continues to grow with operational funding provided by the university and additional funds raised through CPR and life saving courses offered at the campus. Since September, the team has been working to create awareness of safety issues at Frosh and orientation events and at the residence centre. It is also working closely with parking and police services as well as with the Health and Wellness Centre to promote health and safety on campus.

To recognize the services of EMRG, the campus police presented the team with the Community Safety Award at the EMRG opening gala, which was held on Dec. 7. The event was organized to recognize group members who volunteer their time and helped strengthen relations with the City of Toronto’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). The campus EMRG team also received an award from the Association of Campus Emergency Response Teams, and the Canadian Campus Student Emergency Response Team of the Year, and the Best Website Award 2007 of Canadian Campus Response Teams.

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Swetha Chirravur is a fourth-year student in English and economics. She is currently serving as a work-study student in Marketing and Communications.

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