Everywhere you are

In your home, your workplace and in the community, St. John Ambulance has been serving Ottawans for 136 years


Photo Courtesy St. John Ambulance


A few years ago, Jessica P. had the scare of her life.


Her then-13-month-old son had been getting more mobile, and she had turned her back for a few moments when she heard him coughing.


She rushed to his side, but soon, the coughs became silent. She remembered that his eyes narrowed and began to close.


“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” says Jessica, who asked that her last name not be used. “He was choking. I’d never been so scared. I knew I had to do something.”

She recalled the St. John Ambulance training she and her partner had taken before her son’s birth. Several long moments later, Jessica had retrieved the culprit from her son’s throat – a hardened marshmallow that had likely rolled under some furniture.


“I felt so terrible. In the end, he was fine, but it could have ended badly had I not known what to do,” says Jessica, who credits the organization with teaching her. Jessica’s family is one of a countless number to have benefited from St. John Ambulance’s services and training programs over the organization’s 136 years in Ottawa alone.


With over half a million Canadians trained annually, St. John Ambulance is a well-known provider of some of the most sought-after emergency and standard first aid and CPR training courses, as well as community services, in Canada. Its mission is to enable everyone to improve their health, safety and quality of life through training, education, resources and service to the community, says Lisa Paul, Director of Learning, Operations and Community Services.


What makes St. John Ambulance stand out from the other Ottawa companies that provide first aid and CPR training courses is that it is a federally registered not-for-profit – “profits generated from first aid and CPR courses are principally used to fund the volunteer programs within the organization,” Paul says. “We would not be able to impact our communities the way we do if it weren’t for first aid and CPR training courses,” she adds.


Those who are not familiar with the organization’s courses may have seen its volunteers at one or more of the 200-plus community events it covers each year, watched them in action during a disaster response, or had a visit from a therapy dog team. Despite already having a full roster of services, the organization recently stepped up its offerings. In recent years, the local Ottawa Council resuscitated its Disaster Response and Recovery Unit, “which is so important for our Ottawa community,” says Paul. “In any disaster, human or natural, St. John Ambulance volunteers are there to offer assistance, expertise, caring and compassion. Our tradition of coming to the aid of Canadian communities reaches back well over a century, and we are a welcome sight in the wake of disaster.” The Ottawa unit responded to floods in 2017 and 2019 as well as the tornadoes in 2018.


Within the last year, the organization added Mental Health Awareness as an aspect in all Emergency and Standard level course, which was made possible by a grant from Bell Let’s Talk, and earlier this year, included Opioid Overdose Awareness. Unique to St. John Ambulance, both programs are the first of their kind in Canada.


Like most non-profits, St. John Ambulance relies on its volunteers.


In Ottawa, there are 115 uniformed volunteer Medical First Responders, who are trained to the level of a firefighter – using their training, medical equipment and medications – to provide first aid and CPR at hundreds of events each year and act as primary responders in Ottawa and neighbouring communities in the case of a disaster. Many have joined “as a result of seeing the great work we are doing in the community,” says Paul. Still others, with well-socialized dogs, volunteer with the unit’s 30-team Therapy Dog Program to provide more than 800 visits annually to healthcare facilities, workplaces and libraries and schools for programs including the See Spot Read Program, which promotes oral literacy skills in children. Together, volunteers contributed 18,000 hours of community service in 2018.


The volunteers themselves benefit from the experience, says Paul.


“Our programs offer the opportunity to learn and develop new skills as well as putting your existing skills to good use in your community,” she says. “Our units and teams are motivating and the compassion satisfaction felt by our volunteers is enough to suggest to anyone a sense of achievement… We provide the opportunity for individuals to meet new people, make friendships and network as well as inspire others to contribute to their community as well.”




Did you know…


Public courses are hosted 365 days a year at the training centre on Morrison Drive. Instructors will also come to workplaces to conduct private training.


How to get involved


There is always a need for both volunteers and instructors. To learn about getting involved, visit St. John Ambulance’s national website at sja.ca or contact the Ottawa team directly at info@fd.sja.ca or 613-722-2002 ext. 1.


Courses offered by St. John Ambulance

Paul recommends these courses for every Canadian household.


Emergency and Standard First Aid and CPR 

Emergency First Aid is a basic one-day course that every teenager should have. Standard First Aid is the workplace golden standard, and a course every parent should have. It will equip you with the skills necessary to save a life.



Recommended for new parents, the half-day St. John Ambulance CPR Level C Course teaches the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation for infants, children and adults.


Babysitting Basics

With a mix of home alone safety, first aid basics and babysitting content, this one-day course is perfect for any babysitter.


Pet First Aid

A unique course designed for the safety of your pets. (Yes, first aid and CPR can be used to save their life too.) This one-day course comes with a Pet First Aid kit when you sign up for a course in Ottawa, as some of the techniques for pet first aid require supplies that aren’t found in first aid kits intended for people.



A specialty course developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, this course focuses on common mental health problems that a first aider may encounter at work, home or play. This two-day course will prepare you to support substance related disorders, mood related problems such as depression and bipolar disorder as well as anxiety, trauma and psychotic related disorders. Its developed for adults to assist adults, and just like physical first aid, the content is very relevant to your life.


Opioid Awareness and Naloxone Administration Sessions

St. John Ambulance works in partnership with Ottawa Public Health and Sobeys Pharmacy to host this free course. In an effort to address the opioid crisis in Ottawa, we host a free monthly lunchtime session that includes content to teach you about the crisis and how to recognize an overdose. You will be trained by a pharmacist in the administration of Naloxone, and for those that wish to receive a kit, a free intranasal Naloxone kit will be provided at the St. John Ambulance training facility.