Meet the Student Emergency Response Team (CUSERT)

At first glance, they look like ordinary students with their books open, sitting around a table sharing stories and study notes. But at the squawk of the two-way radio, a pair of them grab large red backpacks and move quickly en route to an emergency medical situation on campus.

Meet the members of the Carleton University Student Emergency Response Team (CUSERT); they were recently crowned the best in Canada.

CUSERT is a 45-member-strong volunteer organization that provides immediate first aid response to calls ranging from twisted ankles to life-threatening situations. Members of the team are equipped with spinal boards, oxygen and a defibrillator. They are trained medical first responders and have healthcare-level CPR training. Working in pairs, these first responders are available 24/7 and co-ordinate closely with the Department of University Safety and Ottawa Paramedics.

Each member of CUSERT dedicates over 12 hours a week to training and to being on call. But in addition to honing their first aid skills, members become adept in crisis management, conflict resolution and stress reduction techniques.

Garrett Young, a third-year criminology student, is a CUSERT fitness co-ordinator.

“Lifesaving is a universal skill which can be transferred anywhere. Being trained as a first responder not only gives you the skills to save a life, but the initiative and confidence to do so,” says Young.

The CUSERT headquarters has become home to many team members who often spend their time off shift studying with friends. In addition to lengthy volunteer shifts, many work part-time jobs, attend school full-time and participate in other activities. Apart from first aid response, the team participates in intramural sports and keeps in shape with fitness activities put together by Young.

As CUSERT’s Community Awareness Co-ordinator, Sharleen Gill, a fourth-year neuroscience student, speaks to high school students about the importance of knowing first aid and promotes being involved in extracurricular activities.

The key to CUSERT’s success is working together, says CUSERT executive director Maureen McKeague.

“CUSERT members and safety officers perform as a team to provide the most efficient and effective care to patients,” says McKeague.

“We have eight alumni members who still help out with training. People who like to contribute will find a way to stay involved. There is a role for everyone, not just students. ”

Director of the Department of University Safety Len Boudreault agrees.

“CUSERT performs an invaluable service within the Carleton community and is vital to the well-being of students, staff and faculty. The university should continue to take pride in the dedication of such skilled student volunteers,” says Boudreault.

In February, CUSERT placed first and third at the National Conference of Campus Emergency Responders in first aid challenges which included a mock school shooting situation.
CUSERT at a glance

  • In 2008, volunteers put in over 10,000 hours of on-call service, and 5,000 in volunteer service
  • 339 calls were responded to in 2008, with 81 calls considered major
  • CUSERT has been on call 24/7 since 2005

Statistics provided by CUSERT.

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