SCDF rolls out tech tools for faster response in saving lives

A paramedic demonstrating a new oxygen tank and mask that SCDF fire bikers will now carry in place of manual equipment, as part of the enhancements being rolled out to boost cardiac arrest survival rates. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
A paramedic demonstrating a new oxygen tank and mask that SCDF fire bikers will now carry in place of manual equipment, as part of the enhancements being rolled out to boost cardiac arrest survival rates. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

A new smartphone application alerts people trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to nearby cardiac arrest cases, and a map of all public automated external defibrillators (AED).

These are among initiatives being introduced by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) as part of its efforts to leverage technology to respond faster to emergencies and save lives.

The CPR mobilisation app and defibrillators registry were unveiled at yesterday's SCDF Annual Workplan Seminar, alongside other new tools, such as an unmanned firefighting and rescue vehicle, which also doubles as a forklift or bulldozer.

"Like all of our Home Team, we are challenged by the situation of tight labour within our workforce," said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli, who was speaking at the event held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central. "We have to expand the capabilities of SCDF, not just through manpower expansion as demands on them grow, but also through innovation."

The innovations by the "life-saving force" also extend to tapping full-time national servicemen as well as the wider community more.

The defibrillator registry, for instance, is being set up in partnership with the Singapore Heart Foundation, and SCDF will work with training centres to sign up people who are CPR-certified to build a critical mass for the phone app.

The SCDF hopes these initiatives will encourage more members of the public who are trained in CPR to respond to cases of cardiac arrest, which can dramatically improve patients' survival rates.

This is because bystanders who administer CPR can improve the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases by more than twofold, and using a defibrillator early can raise odds by 11 times.

About 20 per cent of cardiac arrest cases here already receive "bystander CPR", while only 1 per cent of patients were helped by someone using a publicly available defibrillator, said SCDF chief medical officer Ng Yih Yng.

This results in a survival rate of 2.4 per cent for the more than 1,700 cardiac arrest cases reported every year - a dismal record compared to the survival rate in North America (6 per cent), Europe (9 per cent) and Australia (11 per cent).

"It's a staggering improvement if bystanders help," said Dr Ng, who also holds the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the SCDF. "We want to change attitudes so that people are more willing to do CPR as a bystander, and more willing to pluck (a defibrillator) off the wall so that they will try and shock the patient."

The SCDF operations centre, which dispatches first responders to emergencies will also be able to tap the database to alert 995 callers to the nearest defibrillator "and send out an alert to anyone with the app... (who is) within the vicinity", added Dr Ng.

Other enhancements being rolled out to boost cardiac arrest survival rates include an AED machine that also transmits patients' vital signs on top of their electrocardiogram reading and a new bone needle that lets paramedics deliver adrenaline and other drugs to an unconscious patient via the bone marrow instead of a vein.

The unmanned vehicle showcased yesterday packs the firefighting power of 10 officers at once. It has a high-speed fan and can blast mist, water jets or foam.

Another three of the multi-functional machines will be delivered to the force by July, and they will be located at four fire stations.

"It not only can be deployed in places where you need a lot of power to mitigate the fire situation, but at the same time it also gives us tremendous firefighting capability without compromising the safety of our officers," said Mr Masagos.

yanliang@sph.com.sg