After 32 years of service, McMaster’s Emergency First Response Team is celebrating a milestone of 10,000 calls.
McMaster students and faculty call EFRT for a variety of reasons, ranging from critical medical emergencies to common cuts and bruises.
“[The] most prevalent call is musculoskeletal injuries, so injured wrists, legs—lots coming from athletics,” said Chris Adams-McGavin, EFRT Program Director. This is followed by soft-tissue injuries such as cuts, scrapes, and burns, and then alcohol or drug-related incidents.
EFRT volunteers also respond to a variety of emergency calls that include fainting, head injuries, seizures, anxiety attacks, chest pain, and allergic reactions.
Although not all calls are extreme emergencies, the application process and training is rigorous and demanding.
Each year EFRT receives over 100 written applications. In the first stage of hiring, candidates must undergo tests to measure their first aid and CPR skills in addition to an interview.
Only 42 applicants are chosen to move onto the next stage, which involves a weekend of training as well as overnight shifts with EFRT service in campus. Once this training has been completed, usually over a two-week period, the candidates are tested with simulated scenarios.
In the end, only 8 to 12 applicants are hired as EFRT volunteers.
“I’ve been through the training process personally twice. I didn’t make it in my first year,” said Adams-McGavin. “We get a lot of recurring applicants. But you take a lot out of the process regardless of whether you make it or not, and I’ve experienced that first hand.”
The training process matches the expectations that EFRT has of its volunteers. Once selected, volunteers are expected to work 70 to 100 hours a month.
“That is mostly constituted by being on call. So being available in the event that an emergency occurs, and the rest of the time is training time, practice, and team events,” said Adams-McGavin.
The amount of hours each volunteer works each month is high because three volunteers at a time must be on call 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
“We have bikes that we respond on and we are in a fairly central location we can get around very quickly when needed. That’s quite a bit faster than the typical [Emergency Medical Services] response time too,” said Adams-McGavin.
EFRT’s average response time is two or three minutes, while the City of Hamilton’s EMS can take 10 to 13 minutes.
“If it is a truly serious emergency, those seven minutes can be very important,” said Adams-McGavin.
EFRT was started in 1982 by Eddie Wasser, a McMaster student who lived in McKay Hall. EFRT was the first campus response team in North America, and the founder is still involved 32 years later as Medical Director of EFRT.
“[I’m] extremely appreciative to not only my volunteers who’ve put in a lot of time to make this happen, but past volunteers,” said Adams-McGavin. “We’ve had 32 years of people putting a lot of time into this service and they’ve really built it up for us and they deserve a lot of thanks as well.”