19-year-old Mirza Beg, a student at the University of Calgary has been working on a project aimed to allow members of the community to volunteer their time to respond to a medical emergency in the hopes that a community-based response system will alleviate the pressures that Emergency Medical Services are dealing with, especially when it comes to prolonged response times.  

The second-year university student, who is majoring in biomedical health sciences and minoring in public health said the beginnings of the project started when he was still in high school. At that time, he and a friend wanted to solve the issue of ease of access to Automated external defibrillators (AEDs). 

"It's now evolved past this and our current project is looking more at a general community responder system, where community members can respond to any type of medical emergency, and really helped with anything [though] to the defibrillator is a big part of that," he said. 

One of Beg's motivations for continuing on this project, even though he himself admitted he stepped away from it for some time was the death of an acquaintance. 

"He ended up passing away due to an emergency.  When a 16-year-old passes away, it affects you. So, we decided that we needed to create a system where people could help each other out in emergencies. " 

Beg explained that the end goal of his project would be to develop an application in which those who are trained in first response would register through the application and when and if an emergency arises, they would be alerted to it and prompted by the application if they can respond based on their location, their access to medical supplies including naloxone kits and AEDs.  

"If an emergency happened, they're notified using an application and they are asked if they can attend to that emergency. This is obviously in care with the current medical paramedic response, where that is still meant to be happening. This is just a first step to that." 

Beg said that a program is already being run by the University of Calgary and that the program is staffed by medical responder students as well as highly-trained volunteers who commit to volunteering their time to respond to emergencies. He also underlined that the technology to develop such an application already exists, it is the question of how one would integrate an application into the current procedures of emergency response. 

"[The question is] how to get dispatch services to agree to this extra step. Where are they in [the] line with contacting paramedics and conducting traditional emergency responders? They also have to read our system, it's not a big step, but is that something people are willing to do? Is that something that the municipal government is willing to do? That's really the big challenge." 

However, before this is all realized and all those questions are answered, Beg is in the process of trying to understand what kind of functionality an application would need, including what kind of emergencies might this application be used to respond to, what types of volunteers would be able to register and what skill-level would those volunteers need.  

"We're more in the stage of creating a prototype of this system right now. Once we have that, this would probably take around the next three months, including making a prototype, and working with community partners to determine what they might need," Beg said. 

He estimates that it will take three months for the prototype to be finished and after that, he is hoping to get a chance to present his vision to Airdrie's city council as well as non-profit organizations that would be willing to take on a pilot program of his application. Perhaps the biggest hurdle he is faced with is the question of when and how a project like this might be unveiled in the real world. 

"I think the regulation is going to be a big barrier; getting this to the real world requires a lot of regulation checks and it's not obvious to me what that process is going to look like or who's going to be needed to be involved." 

The idea for an application that can be used by volunteer emergency responders to respond to patients has been implemented in other parts of the world, including the United States, as well as Israel. 

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