Sunday, 8 May 2016

Give way to this ambulance or your vehicle will shake; SCDF ambulances to be allowed to run red lights from 1 Dec 2017

Next-generation vehicle comes with features like rumbler sirens to alert motorists in front
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 7 May 2016

For three years, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedic Yeo Ren Jie visited ambulance trade shows around the world to find out how these vehicles were designed by other emergency services.

The 27-year-old staff sergeant (SSG) - who visited them while on holiday in the United States, Germany and Australia - took the best ideas and put them into SCDF's next-generation ambulance, which was unveiled yesterday at the SCDF work-plan seminar at ITE College East.

Also unveiled at the workplan seminar were other new SCDF vehicles, as well as a restructured community preparation programme to combat the terror threat.

The ambulance has a suite of new features, including a hydraulic platform with air suspension to cushion shocks for patients with spinal injuries, and a seamless interior that can be quickly decontaminated.

It is also equipped with a rumbler siren. This emits low frequency sound waves that can penetrate vehicles in front of the ambulance and cause them to vibrate slightly.

The SCDF hopes this will prompt drivers to give way.

According to the Traffic Police, there were seven cases last year in which motorists failed to give way to emergency vehicles. In 2014, the number was 10.

The idea for the rumbler siren came from US highway patrol cars, said SSG Yeo, adding that it will prove useful as cars become increasingly insulated and soundproof.

Ideas for other features, such as high mobility seat belts which keep paramedics secure even while they attend to a casualty, came from flight paramedics.

"Some of these ideas I got while overseas or from reading journals; some were my wild ideas," said SSG Yeo, who was part of a team of five that designed the ambulance.

The former industrial design student at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) was roped into the design team because of his experience.

He is currently in his second year at the National University of Singapore, pursuing industrial design on a Ministry of Home Affairs sponsorship. His interest in emergency vehicles was sparked at TP when he joined the volunteer Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit.

He loved lifesaving work so much that he signed on with the SCDF after graduating. Working on SCDF's new ambulance has allowed him to marry his passions for design and saving lives.

"In design school, your work stops when you get your grade. When you design an ambulance and you see the final product shipped here, it really gives you a sense of fulfilment," he said.

The SCDF maintains a fleet of 55 ambulances, including private ones, and the new ones will be phased in gradually from next year.

Motorists seem unfazed by the rumbler sirens of the new ambulances.

"This is something new," said cabby Raja Manikam, 66. "As long as the sirens don't affect vehicle handling, I think there will be no problem."

Equipping citizens against terror attacks
SCDF re-gears community programmes so people are better prepared to react to terrorist threats
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 7 May 2016

Community programmes that once trained volunteers in lifesaving skills will be re-geared to focus on terrorist threats so that Singaporeans can better look out for one another.

These programmes will train individuals as "Community First Responders" who can react to emergencies before police and civil defence forces arrive. The hope is to have citizens trained at a basic level at least so they know how to help themselves and their families get out of harm's way.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) revealed this shift in its Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP) and Emergency Preparedness (EP) Day schemes at its annual workplan seminar held at ITE College East.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the changes, which kick in later this year, would help save lives. He told SCDF officers at the closed-door seminar: "From SCDF's perspective, to have many well-trained volunteers around the neighbourhood will significantly reduce fatalities, increase the chances of survival and reduce the pressure on response times from emergency vehicles."

He added: "We will equip... participants with life-saving skills and emergency preparedness procedures, and they will be given advisories on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack and how to keep themselves and others safe."

Community volunteers will be taught skills including first aid and fire-fighting, and be classified into three tiers, according to their skill level. At the lowest tier are "emergency prepared citizens" who, after a 45-minute online course, are expected to know how to help keep themselves and their families safe.

The top two levels are "bystander responders" and "volunteer life-savers". They will have to go through training of 21/2 and 4 hours respectively at the five SCDF Division Headquarters around the island.

These volunteers will learn basic first aid, CPR and fire-fighting skills, before moving on to more advanced techniques such as infant CPR. They will also learn how to react in various scenarios, such as during a bomb threat.

Explaining how the SCDF was recalibrating its approach, Commissioner Eric Yap said: "From building awareness on emergency preparedness, we will now level up the core competencies of the community to be first responders during emergencies."

All of SCDF's 20,000 full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen will also be part of the group of first responders, when they are not on duty or serving their in-camp training.

A group of 1,000 NSmen will be part of SCDF's new Public Shelter and Resilience Unit. While they will be equipped with fire extinguishers and first aid kits, they will also go door to door to spread the SG Secure message and information on fire safety and emergency preparedness. SG Secure is a national movement that aims to build community resilience against the terror threat.

Mr Shanmugam said getting this message across to people was half the battle, adding that they would come forward to become volunteers if they believed in the cause.

Also unveiled at the seminar were new technologies SCDF plans to incorporate. These include a more advanced ambulance (see graphic), and a prototype exoskeleton suit, which will allow firefighters to carry casualties or heavier loads for a longer time.

Two upcoming support vehicles - the mass decontamination vehicle (MDV) and the Fire and Rescue Operations Support Tender (Frost) vehicle were also revealed.

The MDV has eight shower cubicles inside the vehicle and two other decontamination lanes outside, that can allow up to 140 casualties to be decontaminated each hour.

Meanwhile, the Frost vehicle carries both breathing apparatus and ventilation equipment used for damage control - combining support functions that used to be fulfilled by two different vehicles.

* SCDF ambulances to be allowed to run red lights from 1 Dec 2017
They can also make unauthorised U-turns; police cars, fire engines may be allowed too
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 8 Nov 2017

From next month, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances will be allowed to run red lights and make unauthorised U-turns when responding to life-threatening emergencies.

Their exemption from part of the Road Traffic Act is in the works. Police vehicles and fire engines could be exempted as well.

The prospective changes were announced in Parliament yesterday by Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin.

SCDF procedures require ambulance drivers to sound their sirens and activate blinker lights to alert other road users that they intend to run a red light or make an unauthorised U-turn.

When approaching a traffic junction, the driver must slow down, come to a complete stop and assess the traffic conditions before proceeding, he added.

Even with the new exemption, its ambulance drivers must comply with these procedures for safety reasons, the SCDF said in its statement.

The Home Affairs Ministry is also updating the Highway Code to include pointers on how motorists should respond when they encounter emergency vehicles on the roads, Mr Amrin said.

Those who refuse to give way will be fined and given four demerit points.

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on SCDF Ambulances by Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health -7 Nov 2017

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