SCDF paramedics emerge champions in international emergency response competition

(From left) Warrant Officer (WO) Zane Ang, 29, WO Naomi Wee, 28, Lieutenant Noraini Kasbani, 45, and Staff Sergeant Jason Kwek, 29, winners of this year's Ferno Australia Paramedic Simulation Challenge.
(From left) Warrant Officer (WO) Zane Ang, 29, WO Naomi Wee, 28, Lieutenant Noraini Kasbani, 45, and Staff Sergeant Jason Kwek, 29, winners of this year's Ferno Australia Paramedic Simulation Challenge.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - They had practised at least 60 different accident scenarios, but nothing could have prepared the team for what greeted them when the curtains were drawn back.

The "accident" scene set in the middle of a "beach" was chaotic: A couple had been flung off a jet ski and the team had to gather as much information as they could from a "fisherman" who had witnessed it.

While this was all part of a simulated exercise during the annual Ferno Australia Paramedic Simulation Challenge held in Gold Coast, Australia, the team of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedics sprung into action.

The four-member team eventually beat five other teams from around the region and emerged champions in the competition that took place on Sept 21.

This is the third time an SCDF team has participated in the international challenge and it is the first time the force has won first place.

"We were the only Asian team there and, in some way, we felt we represented Singapore. So we reminded ourselves to stay focused and do our best," said team leader Warrant Officer (WO) Naomi Wee, 28, who has been with the force for a decade.

"This was, after all, similar to our daily job where there was the element of surprise and we had to respond quickly and on our feet," she added.

The chilly weather was an element that the team - also made up of WO Zane Ang, 29, Staff Sergeant Jason Kwek, 29, and Lieutenant Noraini Kasbani, 45 - had to adapt to.

"It was colder than we expected, so a day before the competition, we all went to buy inner wear from Uniqlo," said WO Wee.

The competition took place in a tent in the middle of an open-air carpark that had been set up to look like a beach.

A man and woman had been injured. The woman suffered a "fractured" arm and "cut" on her thigh, and had to be bandaged up and given painkillers.

Occasionally, she would call out to her "husband" and Staff Sgt Kwek, who was tending to her, would have to calm her down.

"She was also meant to create a distraction for us to test how we handled patients and the elements around us," said Staff Sgt Kwek.

The "man", that was actually a mannequin, was more severely "wounded", with injuries to his head.

With the help of his team mates, WO Ang managed to perform an endotracheal intubation procedure on him.

The procedure was particularly challenging, as although the team had practised it during training, they had never performed it in real life.

It involved a tube being placed into the windpipe through the mouth to secure the airway of the patient.

WO Wee said the team initially felt daunted when they saw participants from places such as New Zealand and Australia at the competition.

"They were tall and big-sized, and we felt physically small. But we reminded ourselves of the people who had invested their time, knowledge and expertise to prepare us for the competition, and we didn't want to let them down," said WO Wee.

The four SCDF paramedics come from different fire stations and divisions across Singapore, but one thing they have in common is their passion for the job.

To prepare themselves for the competition, they spent close to 70 hours while off-duty training for it.

They hope that bringing home the trophy can shine some light on the role and challenges that paramedics face.

Said WO Ang: "Some people think we are just (a mode of) transport to the hospital and some often wonder why we don't just take (the patient) and go, but there are a lot of factors to consider when we reach a scene."

Lt Noraini has been in the force for 20 years and played the role of team manager.

She said: "Hopefully, there will be a sense of pride for paramedics in Singapore.

"And this will continue to remind the public that we are more than capable of caring for them and their loved ones in an emergency."