British Columbia

SFU's emergency protocol questioned after student dies during midterm exam

Some SFU students are questioning the university's emergency protocol after a man suffered a medical emergency last week during a midterm exam. Staff did as instructed and called campus security instead of 911.

University protocol is to call campus security staff, who will then call 911 if necessary

A Simon Fraser University spokesperson says given how large the campus is, it believes security can arrive on scene more quickly than emergency staff. (SFU)

Some students at Simon Fraser University are questioning if the university has the proper protocols in place to respond to emergencies following the death of a 58-year-old man during a midterm exam. 

According to SFU policy, staff and students are instructed to call campus security in all cases of emergency. Security will then call 911 if necessary.

But some students have expressed concern over how efficient this policy is after the man went into medical distress last week.

On Oct. 17, students were writing their archaeology midterm exam when the 58-year-old man began breathing heavily. 

"The snoring got quite violent and he started shaking a bit," said Cathi-Lee Williams, 25, who was sitting in the next row over.

Williams says an instructor tapped the man on the shoulder only to discover he wasn't responding.

A teaching assistant called campus security and students were told to leave the room. 

According to another student, Lynn Tran, who was sitting three seats over from the man, security had to be called twice before someone arrived.

"Everything was just handled very poorly," Tran said.

Man given CPR

According to SFU, its campus public safety team called 911 and that team arrived within six minutes of receiving the call. B.C. Emergency Health Services says the call came in as a cardiac arrest.

The campus public safety team administered CPR and a defibrillator, but the man died. 

The students say they didn't call 911 because they've been told the best course of action is to call campus security, which the teaching assistant had already done. They finished writing their exam in another lecture hall.

Tim Rahilly, SFU's vice-provost and associate vice-president, students and International, said he believes calling campus security first is the most "efficient way" to respond in the event of an emergency.

Rahilly said given the university's size, a campus public safety team can arrive faster than emergency services.

"We are a large campus. We are a three-campus institution, in terms of making sure we can get to the right people at the right place," Rahilly said.

He says security will then call 911 and can conference in dispatchers if need be. 

Call 911 directly, says BCEHS

B.C. Emergency Health Services says it encourages everyone to call 911. It says its call-takers can provide life-saving, step-by-step instructions over the phone while help arrives. 

It also says that it has a strict procedure when it comes to dealing with calls from SFU. While one of its call takers is on one call, another call-taker contacts SFU security.

"Together with security, they co-ordinate a pre-assigned location to our paramedics and escort them directly to the patient location," a BCEHS spokesperson said.

But SFU maintains the fastest way is to call security, who can then co-ordinate the response. 

Jasdeep Gill, VP of external relations with Simon Fraser Student Society, says the university's protocol only works if security responds right away. 

"The difficulty is, if security doesn't pick up your phone call right away, that emergency then turns into an even larger incident," said Gill.