'Every second is critical': Vital for motorists to know how to react quickly in emergency

Participants try doing CPR at the Automobile Association of Singapore's Emergency Preparedness on the Road seminar. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - It is a race against time when emergency vehicles respond to an accident or when a motorist finds himself in a vehicle fire.

Knowing how to react as a motorist to such situations is crucial as it could mean the difference between life and death, said Mr Bernard Tay, president of the Automobile Association of Singapore (AA), at the AA Emergency Preparedness on the Road seminar on Saturday. He also stressed that it is important for motorists to know life-saving skills.

"In the event of a road accident or vehicle fire, when drivers fail to react, to give way, it may impede quick access to the scene of the accident. Every second is critical to an injured person," said Mr Tay, who is also chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council.

On Friday evening, a car burst into flames at a petrol station in Sembawang. Bystanders helped to fight the fire before the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived to extinguish the blaze. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

But car fires can sometimes be fatal. A man who was in his car when it went up in flames at a carpark in Bukit Panjang on July 3 died after more than a month in hospital.

There were 155 vehicle fires in 2021, an increase of two from 2020.

Of the 155 cases, car fires made up more than half, at 82, according to SCDF's data.

The AA seminar, which was co-organised with the traffic police, SCDF and road safety council, was held at the AA Centre near Leng Kee Road. More than 50 motorists and officers from the three organisations attended the event.

SCDF Major (V) Tan Teow Chye, a guest speaker, taught drivers what to do in vehicle fires, as well as how to escape safely.

He also spoke about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of the automated external defibrillator machine on someone whose heart has stopped beating. Participants tried their hand at doing CPR and applying first aid after his speech.

Vehicle fires can occur while a car is moving or stationary, and they may be the result of overheating, electrical faults or a ruptured fuel tank after a collision.

"All fires start very small," said Major Tan. "It is very important that we fight the fire before it reaches the stage where a lot of effort will be needed to put it out."

SCDF said the fire involved the engine compartment of the car. PHOTOS: SCREENGRAB FROM @ABANGINSURANCE/TIKTOK

The seminar's guest-of-honour, Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, said traffic police statistics showed the number of fatal accidents rose by 25 per cent, from 80 in 2020 to 100 in 2021.

More people were also hurt in traffic accidents. Over 7,000 people were injured in 2021, up from over 6,000 in 2020.

"It is therefore important for road users to know how to react to urgent situations such as vehicle fires and road accidents," said Mr Faishal. "Every second counts in an emergency."

While reminding motorists to give way to emergency vehicles, Mr Faishal also praised one driver for his quick action in giving first aid when he encountered an injured motorcyclist.

The driver, Mr Leslie Lee, 40, received an SCDF Community Lifesaver award at the seminar.

Mr Leslie Lee received an SCDF Community Life Saver award for his quick action in giving first aid when he encountered an injured motorcyclist. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Mr Lee, who is a lecturer for paramedic and emergency care at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, was driving to work on the morning of Aug 16.

He saw a motorcyclist who appeared to have skidded under wet conditions near Pasir Ris Drive 8. He took a first aid kit from his car and bandaged the rider's bleeding right arm before the ambulance arrived.

"As a trained paramedic, I understand the need to help people," said Mr Lee. "That's what we teach our students at the ITE. We also teach students to be prepared for emergencies."

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