The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve draws many hikers and taxes them to their physical limit.
As a result, I have seen Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances performing rescue and medical recovery at the reserve on no fewer than six different weekends.
I was told that a 59-year-old man died while hiking up to the top of the hill. And just last Saturday, I encountered a hiker suffering shortness of breath, giddy spells and a fit after climbing up the stairs on the Dairy Farm route.
Such incidents are likely to continue. The National Parks Board and SCDF should take more steps to reduce any chance of fatalities.
• Provide more automated external defibrillators (AEDs), perhaps one in every hut along the trail. Currently, the entire area from Hindhede Drive to Dairy Farm Road is served by just one AED, located at the toilet near the visitor centre. It is also not prominently displayed.
• Display instructions along the trail on what hikers should do in a medical emergency and how to get to the nearest evacuation route and exit.
• Install at least one water fountain at the Summit Hut, as there is no potable water source within the reserve except the water fountains at the visitor centre and carpark B.
• Improve cellular coverage. There are pockets within the reserve that seem to be without cellular signal, which would prevent rescue efforts if a victim tries to call for emergency aid.
• Give more information on the difficulty of each trail, including the distance covered, the elevation profile and the estimated time to hike the entire trail. Regular route markers can also help hikers make a better assessment of how far they can go.
• Hold medical evacuation drills so medical staff dispatched to the reserve have the equipment and skill to carry out an evacuation in the jungle terrain.
• Educate visitors on the right footwear, attire, as well as equipment to have, including trekking poles, water bottles and a first aid kit.
Hikers, too, should stop when they see others in trouble. If necessary, they should offer some water or a piece of candy or chocolate, or a sniff of medicated oil.
That can make a difference in helping a victim get back on his feet and leave the reserve alive.