Top Canadian Red Cross Training Partner
Written By: Emily Innes
Produced By: Tom Cunningham
When it comes to first aid and CPR training and supplies, there is one company that really stands out: First Aid 4U. It started as a small, home-based company in 2009 and to date, First Aid 4U has rapidly grown to service over 20 locations across Ontario. The company is also a multiple recipient of Canadian Red Cross Training Partner awards.
First Aid 4U is beginning to receive a lot of attention. The company was selected as the 2014 No. 1 Canadian Red Cross Training Partner and its president, Neil Kennelly, won the Ottawa Business Journal/Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Forty Under 40 Award, recognizing leadership in business, industry and community. It was only a few years ago at the inaugural Canadian Red Cross Training Partner awards that First Aid 4U —very new to the industry at the time —placed second and third in CPR and first aid training respectively, even though they were competing against companies that had been in the industry for over 10 years.
People were like ‘Who are these guys?’ and then they started to recognize that we are serious in this industry,” Kennelly said.
The company was first conceived when Kennelly and his wife, Krista, who had been a first aid and CPR instructor for many years, decided to start offering courses in Kemptville, Ontario, a small town near Ottawa. He built a basic website to promote the course, which led to an increasing number of calls from potential clients located in the capital city. They started offering the courses in rented hotel conference rooms, but as demand grew they needed a space of their own. They opened their first training centre in 2009 in the Ottawa region.
Big demand for more courses
“I knew nothing about the industry, but I did know that there seemed to be a demand for it,” said Kennelly. “People who were calling us were frustrated by trying to find courses, so we tried to accommodate them.”
Another major development occurred only a few months after they opened their first training centre, when First Aid 4U received a call from a man in Brampton, Ontario, seeking a first aid and CPR course. Since Brampton and Ottawa are almost 500 kilometres apart, Kennelly offered to search for a Red Cross course closer to his area.
“I went searching for a course for this gentleman and I could not find one in Brampton; nobody was offering them. I figured there is a market of 500,000 (people), so there had to be more people looking there (for courses). We ended up opening up an office in Brampton and it has done well,” he said.
“That is what we have been doing. We have been duplicating our process over and over. We open a classroom, and we offer online registration. At the time in 2009, I think there were only one or two other companies in Canada that were offering the ability to register for a class online.”
Offering online registration
The online registration process is one of the distinguishing features of First Aid 4U. According to Kennelly, they also stand out in the industry because they rarely cancel classes. When First Aid 4U was just starting, Kennelly had only seen his wife teach the courses but had never taken one. Wanting to learn more, he registered for a course with another organization but was dismayed when the course was cancelled twice because there were not enough participants.
“What I found is that seemed to be an industry norm. They wanted groups of eight to 10 people but if it was smaller than that, they could cancel at any time. It was written into the agreement, but it seemed silly,” he said. “From our perspective, if we did not have enough people to run the course, that was our fault.”
Kennelly says if there are even only two people booked, they often will run a course and they will only cancel if there is an absolute emergency.
New innovative membership program
An innovative feature that First Aid 4U recently launched is their membership program. This program allows a designated representative of a company to register their employees into public courses offered around the province —at least 100 per month —at a lower membership rate.
“The people who have (become members) so far — it is something we just launched at the beginning of this year — love it,” Kennelly said. “We are selling almost more memberships than we are booking groups in their workplace. They do prefer the membership option of just plugging into our public courses here and there and saving the nightmare of making sure everybody can make it on the (same day).”
First Aid 4U offers training for various purposes, including school program requirements, workplace safety compliance, and personal interest. All First Aid 4U training courses are Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) approved and include Canadian Red Cross CPR/AED in several levels, Emergency First Aid handcar/AED, Standard First Aid handcar/AED, Red Cross recertification courses, and more. The company is very excited about a newly introduced Mental Health First Aid Basic Course.
First aid for mental health and workplace safety training
Mental Health First Aid training is a brand new offering that will help students identify and deal with mental health issues and crisis. This training is useful in situations where there may be a waiting period for professional assistance during a crisis situation. The course informs about treatment options, recognizing symptoms of mental health issues as well as helping reduce stigma surrounding mental health.
“(When) people are not well-equipped to recognize mental health issues or are not able to recognize the symptoms, the results can be catastrophic,” said Kennelly. “You (often) hear with suicides that people never saw it coming.”
This program aims to better educate about the warning signs of dangers stemming from mental health issues, as well as early detection and prevention. Offering a mental health first aid course in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada was “a good add-on to our current services,” he said.
In addition to First Aid 4U’s numerous in-class training courses, they have a variety of online courses as well. They have an extensive library of professional safety training courses customizable for different needs, with a focus on workplace safety. Courses available online include hazardous materials, WHMIS, ladder safety training, and a full catalogue of other options.
As well as training and awareness, First Aid 4 U also operates a full online store where individuals and companies can purchase first aid and safety gear including AEDs, WSIB-approved first aid kits, CPR masks, and much more.
Supporting the community
First Aid 4U appreciates their partnership with the Red Cross because they give back to the community, and are involved with many charities. First Aid 4U is also involved in the community by supporting local and national charities with donation collection programs throughout all of their training facilities, and raising awareness for important causes through various media. First Aid 4U can often be found providing complimentary first aid assistance at events in Ottawa, such as food truck rallies and bike races. As well, First Aid 4U is participating in an upcoming forum with the Canadian Red Cross and the Heart and Stroke Foundation to help standardize the first aid/CPR requirements across the country, which currently vary from province to province.
The company has approximately 80 contract instructors and nine salaried management and administration staff who answer the phones and respond to emails Monday through Saturday. Kennelly said there are four people who are in the offices on Saturdays to respond to customer needs immediately, the day when most of their classes are offered and when most other companies have no support staff.
Kennelly said First Aid 4U has plans to continue its growth with a goal of extending beyond Ontario, either by supporting instructors who need help with the administrative process or by increasing their online program. “I would like our company to be recognized as the face of the Red Cross’s first aid/CPR program across Canada within 10 years.”
To learn more about First Aid 4U, visit www.firstaid4u.ca.