Fire bikers' response time to emergencies shaved, thanks to app by full-time national serviceman

NSF Corporal Hashir Zahir, with the app he developed that helps SCDF fire bikers shave seconds off their response times to emergencies. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Corporal Hashir Zahir, 20, a full-time national serviceman, describes himself as a problem solver.

So when he noticed that the deployment of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) fire bikers could be even faster, he decided to come up with an app to speed up their response time.

Fire and Rescue Specialist-Emergency Medical Technicians (FRS-EMTs), or fire bikers in short, are typically the first responders to fire and medicial emergencies.

When an emergency call comes in, they have to set off for the location within a minute, after donning their gear and getting a call sheet - a piece of paper with details of the case.

They also get an SMS with location details and simple case information for easy reference.

To make the response process more seamless, Cpl Hashir felt that it would be useful to have an app that can, using location details from the SMS, to immediately pull up directions to the area in just two taps. When installed into their phones and an SMS for an emergency call comes in, the app instantly gives fire bikers the option to start navigating to the location without any hassle.

SCDF officers go through daily drills to memorise routes and areas around their fire station boundaries. So while most fire bikers know these routes by heart, the app has helped to shave seconds off their response times - something of great importance in a life-saving operation.

On occasions where the fire bikers need to go beyond the usual boundary or respond to calls at newer property developments, the app removes the need to manually key in the address into their handphone maps. Directions can be pulled up with just two taps via the app.

"I noticed that they sometimes have to manually type in the address into their Google maps if it is an unfamiliar area, so this app removes that need," said Cpl Hashir.

Cpl Hashir started his national service in July last year and was posted to Yishun Fire station in November.

It was the first time that Cpl Hashir, who is from the National University of Singapore High School of Math and Science, had developed an app.

After spending close to 100 hours on his days off scouring the Internet to find out more about app development, he took about three weeks to come up with the first version in March.

"I didn't tell anyone that I was working on the app. So when I finally told my commander and bosses about it, they were pleasantly surprised and said it really had potential," he said.

"They wanted to make it official and by June gave clearance for it to be tested."

Cpl Hashir presented his app earlier this month at the SCDF's 3i Convention, an event to celebrate and encourage innovation within the force.

He said he felt a sense of achievement and fulfilment.

"When I started serving NS, I never thought I would be able to help people in such a way. I'm glad the SCDF has been supportive of it."

The app, which is into its fourth version and is for only Andriod phones for now, has been on a pilot scheme at the 3rd SCDF Division Fire Stations at Yishun, Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang.

Since August, 40 fire bikers from the division have been using it. The app is scheduled to be tested island-wide by mid-December when about 180 fire bikers will get to use it.

So far, the app has received positive feedback from the fire bikers.

Said FRS-EMT fire biker Sergeant Vikneshvaran, 28, who joined the SCDF in 2009 and has been using the app since August: "This app has never failed me and is definitely helpful when you answer an emergency call at an unfamiliar location."

He added: "It adds to our competency to respond to emergencies."

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