Guelph First Responders First in North America

April 15, 2013 - News Release

With hundreds of trained experts eyeing their every move, Guelph first responders showed this year that their first aid and life support skills are the best in all of North America.

Five University of Guelph first responders won the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation (NCEMSF) skills competition in Washington, D.C., beating teams from the United States and Canada.

The Guelph First Response Team (FRT) is a student-run, non-profit group of volunteers, and a division of St. John Ambulance. They provide on-call emergency service life support and first aid care to the campus weeknights and 24 hours on weekends throughout the school year.

Team members Kayla Slade and Sam Sanders competed in the final round.

Earlier, the full team – including Guelph alum Alex Hall, and students Rachel De Young and Shelby Michaelson – showed how to react to a medical situation such as a heart attack, a trauma situation such as a shooting or stabbing, and a teamwork scenario in communication and problem-solving.

The final two-member round was a mass casualty scenario involving a chemical lab explosion. Slade and Sanders competed for Guelph against McMaster University and the University of Vermont.

“We were all well-trained and wanted a chance to compete,” explained Sanders. “Competing is an absolute adrenaline rush. Having a couple hundred trained responders focused on you definitely adds pressure but also gives you that chance to represent your team to a large group.”

For Slade, any anxiety vanished as the scenario unfolded.

“When there are about 20 patients and two responders, no one has time for nerves,” she said. “Guelph FRT has extensive training each semester, and as a team we are fantastic at teamwork and communication with each other on scenes, which was a definite advantage for us in the competition.”

Heidi Berry, a biomedical science student at Guelph and an FRT supervisor, said the team was well-prepared for the contest.

“Everyone on FRT becomes very familiar with a large variety of emergency situations and how to manage them appropriately,” Berry said. “In training, all team members respond to staged situations, similar to what was seen in the competition. That said, it’s the large number of real calls on campus treating real patients that we experience which helps us build skills and confidence.”

When Slade learned U of G had won, she “jumped in the air and started to cry, I think; we were all so excited because for the five of us, it was likely our last competition, as we were a team made up entirely of graduating or alumni students.”

Now finishing her degree in history and theatre studies, she said, “Next year I’m pursuing a diploma in paramedic studies so that I can keep on practising everything the FRT taught me and give back to the community.”

A 2012 biochemistry grad, Sanders is applying to medical school and is part of the St. John Ambulance response team in Winnipeg.

“FRT was the defining reason that I chose to pursue a career in medicine,” he said. “The team also builds incredible character, leadership skills, self-confidence and teamwork.”

First Response Team
Guelph First Responders Team (l-r): Alex Hall, Samuel Sanders, Rachel De Young, Kayla Slade, Shelby Michaelson

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,, or Kevin Gonsalves, Ext. 56982,

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1