SCDF targets 1 million community first responders with enhanced myResponder App

Mr Syamil Uwayis Zainal Abas who responded to a fire on Jan 30, 2023, receiving the SCDF Community First Responder Award on Feb 28, 2023. PHOTO: SCDF/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - He was a teenager hanging out with his friend after school when he saw a woman collapse in front of him near a Housing Board block.

Mr Syamil Uwayis Zainal Abas called the police, but felt helpless as he was not able to do much else. He later found out that the woman had died.

The incident in 2017 left Mr Syamil, now 22, traumatised, and he had to go for therapy and counselling.

He enrolled in a first aid course and in 2022 became a community first responder – a volunteer who receives alerts to nearby minor fires and suspected cardiac arrest cases via the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) myResponder app.

In January, after receiving an alert on the app early one morning, Mr Syamil put out a fire at a centralised rubbish chute room at an HDB block in Choa Chu Kang Avenue 5.

As SCDF encourages more people to become community first responders, it will be enhancing the app that was launched in 2015.

The refreshed app will have features including a video call function that will allow responders to be guided on the go.

The enhancements are expected to be introduced from the end of 2023.

There will also be more resources available to these responders in the coming years.

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam had said in a written reply to a parliamentary question in February that there will be more fire extinguishers and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) installed across the island.

Colonel Wesley Lim Chern Choong, the director of SCDF’s volunteer and community partnership department, last Tuesday said it hopes to increase the number of community first responders to about one million, from about 130,000 now.

“That is about 20 per cent of our population. We still have some way to go, but that’s our long-term vision,” he said.

Mr Shanmugam had said these first responders had attended to 7,670 incidents – 4,525 cardiac arrest cases and 3,145 minor fires – from 2018 to 2022.

According to its annual statistics released in February, SCDF sent out alerts for 1,558 minor fires in 2022 and 1,275 individuals responded to them. There were also 4,105 alerts sent out regarding suspected cardiac arrest cases and 2,214 individuals responded to help.

Col Lim said that over the years, SCDF has conducted focus group discussions with responders to get feedback on the app.

He said there have already been some enhancements made, including specifying if the incident is a minor fire or cardiac arrest in the message that is sent out to the responders.

He said SCDF is now working on myResponder 2.0, which will allow those responding to select their mode of response, for example, by foot or vehicle.

They will also be able to receive alerts of incidents that happen within distances of up to 1.5km. The current version alerts responders who are within 400m of the incident.

He said the new video call function will allow SCDF’s operations centre to have a live view of the situation and to provide live guidance on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if needed.

Mr Syamil, a designer, welcomed the enhancements.

In January, when the app alerted him to the chute fire near his home, he rushed down to investigate.

After he arrived at the block, he saw smoke coming from a chute and called 995. The SCDF operator asked him to go to the centralised rubbish chute room on the ground floor, and Mr Syamil was told how to open the door.

He then used the fire extinguisher inside to extinguish the flames, which ST understands were likely caused by lighted materials such as embers from charcoal or cigarette butts.

Said Mr Syamil: “I didn’t know how to open the room, and they guided me even though they couldn’t see anything. I think the video call function and SCDF being able to see the incident will be very useful.”

Col Lim said every second counts during an emergency and that early intervention is vital.

He said: “In a cardiac arrest incident, the chances of survival drop by 7 per cent to 10 per cent for every minute without CPR intervention.”

He added that in a fire incident, responding early could minimise damage.

Mr Daniel Lim (second from right) who responded to a cardiac arrest incident on May 22, 2022, receiving the SCDF Community Lifesaver Award on Sept 15, 2022. PHOTO: SCDF/FACEBOOK

Mr Shanmugam said that over the next five years, SCDF will engage the HDB, town councils and Temasek Foundation to install one fire extinguisher at the lift lobby of every two HDB blocks. 

As for AEDs, he said SCDF’s target is to have one defibrillator within 250m reach in urban areas by the end of 2025.

Mr Daniel Lim, 47, a part-time security officer who attended to 19 cases in 2022 via the app, said greater accessibility to AEDs could help save more lives.

In May 2022, he responded to a case of a man who suffered a cardiac arrest at Block 661B Jurong West Street 64.

He delivered a shock with an AED he grabbed from a nearby block before SCDF officers arrived. The man survived, and a few days later, Mr Lim visited his family, who thanked him for his help.

He said: “I felt it was my social responsibility, and I’m happy the family didn’t lose a loved one.”

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