UBC’s Okanagan campus may not feature as many cranes as the Vancouver campus (yet…), but in many ways the two campuses are quite alike. For example, the SHHS operation at the Okanagan campus contains many of the same units: Residence Life and Residence Administration, Conferences & Accommodation, Facilities, and Food Services. Plus, we’ve got similar cloud cover in the winter – although very different kinds of precipitation.

SHHS Okanagan also features some unique programs and initiatives, like the UBC Okanagan Emergency First Response Team (UBCEFRT). UBC EFRT is a student volunteer operated organization, led by Residence Life, that provides 24/7 first responder support to the campus.

Dan SmithWe chatted with Dan Smith, a Residence Life Manager at the Okanagan, who started the team in January 2016. “This kind of team is an important part of campus life at colleges and universities in Ontario, where I’m from. I didn’t see student organizations like this here in BC, so I thought I’d see if we could make it work here. And so far so good. Our team now has 70 students and we’re able to offer emergency support to the campus around the clock.”

Dan hails from a small town in Muskoka, Ontario and attended Trent University in Peterborough. While there he was a Residence Don and participated on the Trent University EFRT, which has operated on that campus since 1992. After graduating from Trent with a BA in History and Classical Archaeology, Dan came to UBC Vancouver and worked as a Residence Coordinator. Following that he moved directly into his current position as an RLM in the Okanagan.

“Students respond really well to the peer-based emergency support. Plus, it’s a leadership opportunity where students can develop a unique set of skills.” – Dan Smith, Residence Life Manager & EFRT Program Leader

Bringing it to BC

What Dan liked about the EFRT programs common in Ontario was twofold. He recalls how valuable the peer emergency support was, how it allowed students to communicate more honestly and openly with first responders, and how supported students and the campus community felt knowing the team was just a call away. The other aspect that was appealing to Dan is that the program is a great way for the student volunteers to get leadership experience, receive formal first aid and responder training, develop themselves personally and professionally, and build community. Now in its second year, he sees the same impact on the Okanagan campus.

How do they do it?

Aren’t students already busy enough with classes, exams, and part-time jobs, you may ask? How do they find the time to provide 24/7 emergency support to campus? Dan explains that with 70 students on the team, a student will be scheduled for a 12 hour shift every two weeks or so. Students can attend class while they’re on duty, but need to stay on campus. If they don’t already live on campus, the team provides a room where they can sleep if they’re on an overnight shift.

How are on-duty students notified about an incident? “We’ve built a strong relationship with Campus Security. If they’re ever called out to respond to an emergency, they radio our team for support,” says Dan. “So both Campus Security and our first responders attend. Campus Security provides fundamental support to the campus, and we augment their great work. It’s a valuable relationship and collaboration between UBC staff and students.” Dan adds that in incidents where students are involved, UBCEFRT members act as the primary responders. Whereas for incidents involving faculty or staff, Campus Security staff – who are trained in Occupational First Aid – act as primary responders, with support from UBCEFRT.

“UBCEFRT is a fantastic program because it promotes campus safety while helping students build confidence, improve their critical thinking, and grow as leaders. I love being able to help people using my first aid skills and make a positive impact on my community.” – Becca Albo, UBCEFRT member and 4th year Nursing student

Wait, there’s more!

The team also provides first aid training to the campus community, and Dan hopes they will be able to do more in the future, as they certify additional members in teaching First Aid and CPR. Beyond training, they also provide event support across campus. Student groups, for example, can ask for EFRT members to provide support at their events, which are often required to have first responders on site. That requirement sometimes means certain events can’t go ahead because the cost of private first responders is too high, so the team is able to help activate the campus as well as provide emergency support.

“I’m passionate about empowering students and giving them leadership opportunities. Establishing the EFRT program here was a chance to do something unique, to engage and activate a group of students who are interested in developing the type of skills that this program can offer.” – Dan Smith

What training do students receive?

To become part of the EFRT, students go through a tryout process where they are educated in Standard First Aid through the Canadian Red Cross. Those students who are admitted to the team are then trained up to the level of First Responder 3. Plus, they have regular training exercises throughout the year!


The past year brought big changes for the EFRT program that Dan is very proud of. One of those is that the program went campus-wide. In its first year, it was limited to providing support within residence areas, but with the increased membership, depth of experience, and growing relationship with Campus Security, Dan and the students felt confident supporting the entire campus. Additionally, Dan is excited that some of the team’s core members are heading to an EFRT conference in Ontario, where they’ll be able to learn from the best and they’ll also be representing UBC in competition!

Coming up next

Next year, Dan is hopeful for greater member retention and to increase the team’s event support capacities. Plus, he hopes to train more of the team’s members as instructors, which would in turn allow the team to certify more staff, faculty, and students across campus in CPR and First Aid.

Additionally, one of Dan’s big aspirations for the team is to train more members in Occupational First Aid, which would allow team members to act as primary responders in emergencies and incidents involving staff and faculty.

Where can I learn more?

Find out more about the UBCEFRT’s activities, events, and services at efrt.ok.ubc.ca.