SINGAPORE - A total of 50 ComfortDelGro taxis and 10 minibuses will be equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) from Thursday (Aug 26) so drivers can be first responders in cases of medical emergencies.
The 60 ComfortDelGro drivers for the vehicles have been trained in the "triangle of life" - first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED use, and firefighting - and will be alerted to related emergencies within 1.5km of their vehicles via an app.
They will hopefully then get to the scene quickly to administer first aid and stabilise the condition of those needing help, even before medical professionals arrive.
This should increase the chances of survival of a person who suffered a cardiac arrest, for instance. For every minute saved, such a person's chance of survival increases by 7 per cent to 10 per cent.
"Emergencies happen anywhere, at any time. The training will help us save lives," said Mr Harry Ng, 62, one of the 50 taxi drivers who joined the programme.
Mr Raymond Ong, 61, another driver who attended the course conducted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), said he regretted not having first aid skills 10 years ago when he saw an elderly man clutch his chest and collapse to the ground while on his shift.
"I could not react then because I was not trained. I did not hesitate to join the programme when asked because every life is important."
This is the third expansion of the AED-on-Wheels programme by the SCDF.
In 2015, 100 SMRT taxis were the first cabs to be equipped with AEDs. This was followed by 50 vehicles from the now-defunct HDT Singapore and 50 vehicles under Grab.
Since HDT Singapore shut its business in November last year, the 50 AEDs in its possession have been returned to SCDF and are now redeployed to the 50 ComfortDelGro taxis.
The other 10 AEDs have been additionally sponsored by the Singapore Heart Foundation.
From 2015 to July this year, the trained drivers have responded to 167 cardiac arrest cases, the SCDF said.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, at the launch of the programme on Thursday, said: "Remember, every response matters, even if it is performing simple tasks like guiding emergency responders to the casualty or helping to retrieve an AED."
He added, addressing the drivers on the programme: "I urge all of you to always be ready to respond to the next emergency when activated by the myResponder app. You can make a difference in someone's life."
Madam Kirsty Foo, 61, a ComfortDelGro driver who just finished the SCDF course, said she thinks she will be nervous the first time she is pinged on the app.
"It is someone's life after all. But I think I will still be able to push it to the back of my mind. I will most definitely respond, no questions asked," she said.
She drives the early morning shift, from 2am to 6.30am, and said it is particularly important for her to stay alert as people who have a heart attack during such times might not find aid forthcoming.
"Even now, when I drive female passengers, I make sure that they enter the lift to their house before I drive off. This is an extension of what I do."
Cabby V.A. Moorthy, 62, said the four-hour training that he went through was easy and interesting. "I want to show society that regardless of my age, I am able to save lives and can get ready and reach the scene as soon as possible."
More than 96,000 members of the public have registered on the myResponder app, which alerts those within 400m of the victim of a medical emergency or a minor fire nearby.
Since the start of the year, they have responded to 67 per cent of all cases.