SINGAPORE - More than 60 private-hire drivers have been trained and equipped to be lifesavers in an ongoing effort by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to get more first responders on the roads.
Partnering with a ride-hailing firm for the first time, SCDF has fitted 50 Grab vehicles with automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which are portable devices that can send an electric shock to the heart to revive it during a cardiac arrest.
The 50 vehicles have also been equipped with fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and 64 Grab drivers have been trained to use the equipment, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and give basic first aid.
This is part of the SCDF-Grab AED-on-Wheels programme launched on Thursday (Jan 28) at Grab's office in Sin Ming.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, who was guest of honour at the launch, said drivers in the programme can make a crucial difference to the lives of others.
He said: "When cardiac arrest cases are reported, these drivers will be notified via SCDF's myResponder app. If they happen to be in the vicinity, they can quickly render aid to the person in need. Such quick response to a medical emergency can mean a difference between life and death."
The participating Grab vehicles, which can also be deployed to other emergencies such as vehicular fires and traffic accidents, will have decals displayed on their front windscreens.
SCDF's partnership with Grab is the third iteration of the AED-on-Wheels programme, which aims to increase the availability of roving AEDs within the community.
The programme started in November 2015 when 100 SMRT taxis were equipped with AEDs. It was expanded in November 2019 to include 50 HDT Singapore taxis.
Drivers are alerted to cardiac arrest incidents within a 1.5km radius of their location and participating cabbies have assisted in 158 cardiac arrest cases as of Sept 30 last year.
With HDT pulling the plug on its taxi business last November due to the "prolonged debilitating impact" of the Covid-19 pandemic, SCDF said the 50 AEDs deployed to HDT taxis have been retrieved for maintenance and refurbishment. Sponsored by the Singapore Heart Foundation, the devices will be re-deployed at a later date.
Assistant Commissioner Yazid Abdullah, director of SCDF's volunteer and community partnership department, said: "For every minute passed during cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decreases by 7 to 10 percent, and every life saved counts...
"We look forward to this partnership with Grab and strive to forge more partnerships to enhance community first response."
Grab Singapore managing director Yee Wee Tang said the firm was honoured to be part of the AED-on-Wheels programme.
"This meaningful initiative not only contributes to strengthening community resilience, but also enables our driver-partners to play an active role in helping to save lives," he said.
The Grab drivers participating in the programme had all signed up voluntarily.
If they are activated while ferrying passengers, they will respond only after the passengers are dropped off at their destination.
Associate Professor Faishal urged the public to download the myResponder app.
"You don't have to be on a special programme or have undergone special training to play a part in saving lives," he said.
To date, almost 90,000 people have registered on the app and they have responded to almost half of all cases on the app. In October last year, the response rate went up to 61 per cent, said Prof Faishal, one of the highest rates despite the ongoing pandemic.
He added: "Every response matters, even if it is performing simple tasks like guiding emergency responders to the casualty or helping retrieve an AED."