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The Fulcrum staff member who used the service gave it a positive review. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum

Fulcrum staff member tested services new adaptations

Foot Patrol, one of 14 available services to students through the University of Ottawa’s Students’ Union (UOSU), has moved its operations to telephone-only due to concerns over COVID-19 exposure and student safety. 

The service, which offers students safe walks home with volunteers anywhere around campus and downtown Ottawa, hopes the telephone service will allow easier access while following public health orders. 

Amina El Himri, the UOSU’s student services commissioner, said that while only one student has used the service — a Fulcrum staff member who was testing the service — since it’s launch on Dec. 2, 2020, many students are reaching out with questions regarding the service. 

“We are working very hard with our marketing team to promote the service and encourage students to use it,” wrote El Himri in an email. 

The Fulcrum staff member who used the service gave it a positive review, saying it was “not awkward at all” and “felt as comfortable as a potential in-person service.”

According to the Foot Patrol website, students who wish to use the service should simply dial the Foot Patrol number to speak with a volunteer. The caller will be asked for their name, current location, destination, phone number, expected arrival time and (when operating in person) a description of their clothing

Due to COVID-19, volunteers are expected to ask callers for an update of their location every five minutes and engage in casual conversation until the user reaches their destination. 

If a disconnection occurs, users need to call back immediately. If they do not, a volunteer will call back after 30 seconds and if this call is not answered, the volunteer will notify Protection Services if the caller is on campus and the Ottawa Police Service if they are off campus. 

In a situation where the user is in danger and cannot call 911, they can simply yell “code red,” explain what is happening and the volunteer will immediately call the appropriate responders. 

Foot Patrol currently has five active volunteers who are covering every shift when the service is active between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. 

Additionally, El Himri says that Foot Patrol is working on “expanding their identity through [giving] virtual self-defence workshops [to the student population] and even mental health first aid workshops.”

In the future, the telephone service will continue even after the pandemic ends, with El Himri believing the mobile option allows for more accessibility and provides students who might live further away from campus the option to use the service.