A lifesaver’s crusade

Former firefighter and entrepreneur John Collie is on a mission to save more lives – and he wants your help.

by Lisa Harrison

“I saved a guy we played adult hockey with when he went VSA (vital signs absent) on the bench during our Sunday night hockey league,” says John Collie joyfully.

“How cool is that?!”

Collie, a former Toronto firefighter, was in the dressing room when a teammate rushed in to report that a friend had collapsed on the bench and was VSA. Collie gave instructions and within seconds he and his teammates were following lifesaving protocols with Collie using a defibrillator to shock his heart back into normal rhythm.

Collie’s friend opened his eyes just before paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital.

The victim’s wife, a doctor, called the following day and said, “John, if you weren’t there with the defibrillator, who knows what would have happened?”

John Collie

Help is on the way

A cottager on Soyers Lake in Haliburton County, Collie has been saving lives directly and indirectly for decades as a firefighter and more recently as president and CEO of Rescue 7, which provides first aid training and equipment. But the thrill of saving a life, especially a friend’s life, hasn’t dimmed.

Markham-based Rescue 7 was responsible for saving 29 Canadian lives last year, and that’s just the number that can be tracked through the resetting of the company’s sold automated external defibrillators (AEDs) after they have been used. Rescue 7’s training graduates may have saved untold additional lives.

Collie started the company in his basement office in the 1990s while he was still a firefighter. Formally established in 1998, it’s named after the heavy rescue truck Collie worked on.

“We would go to these calls and there’d be somebody having a heart attack or cardiac arrest and there would be 20 people over them, standing there just looking. And you know what? The more we could train the masses, the more lives we could possibly save, and so I started the company as a little side thing just to see if we could train more people, and it just took off on me.”

In his drive to help save as many lives as possible, Collie has created a highly successful company. His first big break came as an invitation to appear on the CBC’s Dragons’ Den in 2008, which eventually led to a Rescue 7 contract with Dragon Jim Treliving’s Boston Pizza chain.

Rescue 7 made the Profit 500 list of Canada’s fastest-growing companies for 2012 through 2015, and Collie is personally featured in Michael Caldwell‘s book The Corporate Wizards.

Rescue 7 clients now include Air Canada, Air Transat, Canada Post, Walmart, Loblaw, Canadian Tire, the OPP, the RCMP, hydro companies, universities and more. Collie estimates Rescue 7 has placed more than 25,000 AEDs.

Spreading success

Rescue 7 honours its success by giving back. The company doubles down on lifesaving through its Forward Hearts program, donating one AED to a location chosen by each

person whose life has been saved through one of the company’s sold AEDs. Rescue 7 also partners with other organizations and raises funds on its own to donate AEDs.

“We host a fundraiser the last Friday of January every year at The Heights Ski Club in Horseshoe Valley and all funds raised go towards donating AEDs to not-for-profit organizations in need,” says Collie.

“The day includes skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, a pancake breakfast, silent and live auctions, a live band and wine and beer tasting, including Boshkung (Brewing Co. of Minden).”

Open to all

After years of doing business with businesses, Rescue 7 is expanding its reach directly to consumers. It is also working with the OPP and a cottage association to complete a pilot project on training people in advanced first aid. Course graduates can purchase a complete trauma bag with AED and oxygen equipment to administer help until OPP and emergency medical services arrive.

“If all goes well, FOCA (Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations) would like to expand the program across the province.”

There’s an app for that

AEDs are useless if potential users don’t know where to find them. AED manufacturers offer apps that show the locations of their own sold AEDs, but Rescue 7 has gone several steps beyond that in developing an app called CISALI (“siss-a-lee”), which stands for Citizens Save Lives. The app is designed to show the locations of all placed AED units around the world.

Rescue 7 has created partnerships with several companies and is continuing to work toward connections with remaining companies to achieve this. Individual AED owners can also register their equipment with the app if they are open to making the equipment available to the public.

CISALI is available free through Google Store. Find out more at Rescue7.net.