SINGAPORE — When my husband and I lit a lavender-scented candle in our bedroom last year, we thought it would help us unwind, relax and sleep better. The candle turned out to be a fire hazard.
Mr Mohamed Yam, the trainer for the day, started the session by explaining how applying the Triangle of Life skills could help “save someone’s life” in times of emergency before medical help arrives or prevent a minor fire from escalating.
The session took about three hours but it went by quickly because there were so many interesting things to learn.
Many of the skills are useful for daily life, too. For example, the first-aid component covered a wide range of injuries, such as how to manage burns, sprains and wounds — all of which would come in handy even in non-emergency situations.
It also covered choking incidents, which are common not just in young children but also older adults such as seniors.
People over 65 years old were found to have seven times higher risk of choking on food than children aged one to four years, based on a 2018 paper published in the international scientific journal Geriatrics.
A hands-on demonstration on how to stop excessive bleeding using improvised first-aid skills was especially interesting.
I was keen to learn to do a makeshift windlass tourniquet because the technique — of using a strip of cloth to tie around an injured arm or leg to stop bleeding — is often depicted in my favourite medical and rescue dramas.
With some help, I successfully improvised a tourniquet by tightening a strip of bandage using a pen. It is improvised because we were taught to use materials that we have on hand at the time of the emergency. For example, a belt, a scarf or chopsticks.
Staff Sergeant Daniel Chng, who was involved in the training programme that day, said that the windlass technique is applied when initial direct pressure to an active bleeding wound — typically for limb injuries — does not successfully stop the bleed.
He is the assistant community involvement officer from the 2nd SCDF Division.
WHAT I LEARNT FOR CPR + AED
Learning to perform CPR and use an AED are among the main components of the training session.
In Singapore, more than 3,000 people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest a year, with more than 80 per cent in residential and public settings, the Singapore Heart Foundation said.
Mr Mohamed Yam the trainer said that the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases in Singapore is around 26 per cent, but with early CPR and paired with the use of AED, the chances of survival increases by two times or more.
During the session, I learnt hands-only CPR, which does not involve mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
SCDF said that this is the recommended method for untrained people or general public because it eliminates the hesitation of performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a stranger.
For those who wish to learn the mouth-to-mouth technique, the third tier of the CEPP, called Lifesaver, will cover that and other more advanced lifesaving skills such as immobilising fractures.
Staff Sergeant Chng explained that the purpose of performing CPR is to use chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps — this helps keep blood flowing to the rest of the body including the brain.
“When the patient goes into cardiac arrest, the chest compression administered during CPR will continue to keep the blood flowing while supplying oxygen to vital organs until professional help arrives,” he added.
Mr Mohamed Yam said that there is a possible risk of a rib fracture during CPR, particularly in older adults. However, he also pointed out that without help, the person has no chance of surviving.
Personally, I was afraid to use an AED. The device works by delivering a controlled electric shock to a cardiac arrest victim to re-establish normal heart rhythm.
What if I made things worse, or accidentally give myself or someone else an electric shock because I’m unfamiliar with using the device?
Going through the training session eased some of my fears. I discovered that the AED comes with easy-to-understand visual guides on where to correctly place the defibrillation pads.
For the device I used, it comes with sticker pads that are self-adhesive. We are taught to wipe the casualty’s chest dry if there is perspiration or moisture before applying the pads. Moisture reduces how well the pads stick to the chest wall and this can affect how effective the AED shocks are.
Once turned on, the device analyses the victim’s heart rhythm and uses voice prompts to direct the user when to deliver the shock, if needed.
This lessened my fear of using the AED incorrectly.
I also found out that AEDs are relatively easy to locate around my housing estate, because one device is installed at the lift lobby of every two public housing blocks.
HOW TO USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
One of the highlights of the programme was to learn to use a fire extinguisher.
Everyone attending the session had a go at using a 2kg carbon dioxide extinguisher, and learnt the correct way of holding and operating it to put out a fire.
For example, you should aim low and point the nozzle at the base of the fire.
I was told that in the near future, SCDF will be installing a publicly accessible fire extinguisher at every two public housing blocks.
The public is also encouraged to buy personal fire extinguishers for home use (see sidebar at end of report) — something that I intend to do for my home.
Mr Mohamed Yam said that members of the public should only try to put out “small incipient fire”, which may be in the form of a rubbish bin fire that has just occurred and can be easily put out by a fire extinguisher or buckets of water.
If there is heavy smoke or when the fire continues to develop or spread despite attempts to contain it, people should evacuate to a place of safety and call SCDF for assistance.
WHAT SCDF’S STATISTICS SHOW
Captain Muhammad Hakim, a public education officer with the 2nd SCDF Division, said SCDF has observed that more people are stepping forward to be Community First Responders.
This initiative was launched in 2018.
Members of the public who are registered as these volunteers via SCDF’s myResponder mobile application receive alerts to minor fires and suspected cardiac arrest cases within their immediate vicinity.
Last year, a total of 3,489 people responded to minor fires and suspected cardiac arrest cases. This is about a 30 per cent increase from 2,673 individuals in 2021.
There are now more than 138,000 registered responders on the app.
It is not necessary to have prior training to be a Community First Responder, but being equipped with the necessary skills will help people be more confident when managing minor fires and helping suspected cardiac arrest victims.
Whether one is a first responder or not, trained or not, SCDF still encourages everyone in the community to help in any way possible when incidents arise.
“Even if you are really uncertain about life-saving, you can do your part in other ways in an emergency,” Captain Hakim said.
This would include calling 995 or helping to take the AED to the emergency site because the person who is giving first aid may not have time to locate the device.
While on my way home from the training session, I made a mental note of the AED locations around my estate.
I felt more confident that my newfound skills will enable me to be more prepared — and maybe even save a life — when the need arises.
Learn more about the CEPP from SCDF’s website.
TIPS ON GETTING A PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHER FOR HOME USE
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that a dry-powder fire extinguisher is effective against fires involving ordinary combustibles such as wood and paper, flammable liquids such as oil and paint, and also electrical equipment.
It can be used to extinguish many types of household incipient fires. A dry-powder fire extinguisher works by forming a barrier that separates the oxygen source and the fire.
Home owners may wish to look out for the following when getting portable fire extinguishers:
Serial labels issued by the Certification Body (recognised by SCDF) are affixed to the extinguisher bodyThe extinguisher is full by weighing on a weighing scale or lifting itThere is no obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzleThe pressure gauge reading or indicator is in the operative range. This refers to the green and red zones on the pressure gauge display. As long as the pointer is in the green zone, the extinguisher can be used normally. If the pointer is in the red zone, it indicates that the pressure is too low or faulty and needs to be replacedServicing and maintenance of portable extinguishers can only be carried out by qualified and trained persons in proper workshops of a certified servicing company. For the list of companies registered for the servicing, maintenance and disposal of portable fire extinguisher, refer to this websiteMore information on the list of authorised fire extinguisher dealers and servicing workshops can be found here
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