Friday 13 July 2012

Cardiac arrest? SCDF Fire Bikes to the rescue

They attend to 58 such cases after being fitted with defibrillators
By Bryna Sim, The Straits Times, 12 Jul 2012

FIRE bikers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) have responded to 58 cardiac cases after they were equipped with automated external defibrillators in April.

On average, 95 per cent of those cases - 34 in April and 24 in May - were attended to within 11 minutes by these firefighters on motorcycles.

The fire biker concept was introduced by the SCDF in 1998 to help firefighters cut through traffic and get to incidents faster.

But the move to equip them with defibrillators and to train the firefighters to use them was announced earlier this year at the SCDF workplan seminar in April.

Spokesman Leslie Williams said it was aimed at providing the force with a more mobile alternative when responding specifically to cardiac arrest cases.

This, he added, was in addition to the fleet of SCDF fast-response paramedics, who respond to medical emergencies on motorcycles.

Citing a case attended to by a fire biker last month when someone collapsed in public, Lieutenant-Colonel Williams said: 'The initial role performed by the fire biker was crucial in reviving the subject.'

Fire bikes are now deployed from 40 locations around Singapore, instead of just at the island's 14 fire stations when they were first introduced.

A new addition to the fire biker fleet this year are 12 three-wheeler Italian-made motorcycles, which will gradually replace the current fleet of 28 two-wheelers.

To learn how to give medical assistance in cardiac cases, fire bikers train in the accident and emergency departments of hospitals, and in ambulances with paramedics.

Weekly lessons and passing two examinations a year are also required.

The chairman of the National Resuscitation Council, Professor V. Anantharaman, said the addition of defibrillators to the fire bike concept is a real game-changer for first-responders to cardiac emergencies.

'The bikes can weave through traffic and reach incident scenes faster,' he said. 'Every minute saved is an increased chance of a life being saved, especially in cardiac cases.'

Prof Anantharaman, a former head of emergency medicine at the Singapore General Hospital, said very few people who experience chest pains call for ambulances.

'At the moment, there's on average a 10-minute delay before a call for help is made,' he said. 'That's crucial because chances of survival go down with every minute of delay.'

His comments are in line with a survey done by researchers from the cardiac department of the National University Heart Centre Singapore, which found that only one in three patients relied on an ambulance to get to the hospital in cases of cardiac arrest.

The study of 252 patients found that those who called for an ambulance were treated an average of 81.6 minutes faster, from the onset of symptoms to the time of treatment, than those who did not.

Some doctors, however, felt that there needed to be greater public awareness of the fire bikers as an option in cases of collapse, chest pains and breathlessness.

Dr Dinesh Nair, a consultant cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, welcomed the fire bikes, but said: 'I don't think the public is that aware of how the fire bikers can help save their lives.'

He suggested that SCDF print posters and speak to grassroots organisations about it. 'This could even be tagged on to one of SCDF's campaigns,' he said.


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