We respect firemen and female firefighters. The latter are a minority in the male and macho dominated profession. They risk their precious lives putting off fire and rescuing people.
To help my little man appreciates firefighters and their contributions to our society, I brought him to the open house of Central Fire Station Singapore.
While many pictorial children books still refer to a firefighter as a fireman, from here onward, let’s greet them firefighters. Why?
Denise Christie, a British female firefighter since 1997, often challenges the use of the term “fireman”. Why?
Firefighter’s job is really one of the toughest, at the front-line of disasters and life-saving work.
In Singapore, firefighting, rescue and emergency ambulance services are provided by SCDF – that stands for Singapore Civil Defence Force (新加坡民防部队).
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At Central Fire Station, baby Ren enjoyed appreciating many rescue vehicles, from ambulances to fire engines, including the huge Pump Ladder and Combined Platform Ladder.
He refers to any vehicle as tutu, perhaps from the sound that car horns or traditional trains make.
Mama, look! Baby Ren was too amazed sitting inside the Red Rhino ~ a smaller and more compact version of the fire truck for better accessibility in tight and narrow spaces.
Your kids can squirt water like a real firefighter onto a ‘fire’ target. Have fun with the water gun!
The volunteer guide in uniform, an ‘Uncle’ in late 40s or early 50s, delivered useful knowledge related to emergency.
When someone has a heart attack (cardiac arrest), s/he has only 4 minutes to survive if no CPR is given. That’s why, everyone ideally learns and knows how to perform CPR. The skill can save our loved ones.
What is CPR?
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
In brief, CPR = rescue breathing + chest compression
When someone is unconscious, remember the DR ABC steps, which stands for Danger – Response – Airway – Breathing – Compression.
1. DANGER: check no further danger to the rescuer (yourself) and the casualty.
2. RESPONSE: can the casualty respond?
Unconsciousness may be due to airway obstruction / choking, apnea, cardiac arrest.
Try to wake the casualty.
If no response, shout for help, ask someone to immediately call for an emergency ambulance (dial 995 in Singapore) and to get an AED (if available). .
If you are alone, use a speaker mode while calling, so your hands are free for the next step.
3. AIRWAY: open the casualty’s airway & check if airway is clear or blocked by a foreign object. Remember the head tilt chin lift method.
4. BREATHING: check by looking if the chest rises, listening & feeling for the air for up to 10 seconds.
If the casualty is breathing normally, place him in the recovery position and monitor his condition regularly until medical help arrives.
If the casualty does not breathe, immediately do CPR: a cycle of 30 compression followed by 2 rescue breath with the casualty’s nose being sealed.
The compression is delivered at the rate of 100 compressions / minute and to cause the chest to deepen by 1.5 to 2 inches (4 -5 cm).
Count loudly as you compress:
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 10 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 15 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 20 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 25 and
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 30
After 5 cycles of CPR, check for pulse and breathing.
If no breathing, repeat CPR until paramedics take over.
The air we breathe in contains 21% oxygen.
The air we breathe out contains 16-18% oxygen.
Therefore, rescue breathing still supplies the crucial oxygen to the casualty.
The steps described above are slightly different from those I learned during a Standard First Aid (SFA) course, before becoming a first aider with the Red Cross Youth NTU Chapter.
In my SFA course (more than a decade ago), after the BREATHING step, there is a CIRCULATION step, in which the rescuer checks for sign of blood flowing, particularly through carotid pulse. Since the pulse is difficult to determine, CPR is performed immediately if there is no breathing.
A memory of my fellow first aiders who served during a Christmas in Orchard, Singapore. Dad made a surprising night-visit that time, thanks to his Malaysian friend who drove to Singapore. Rarely seeing Dad, I wanted to accompany him strolling Orchard, but Dad insisted that I fulfill my duty. That night, I only served a casualty, who suffered from a minor bruise. Unlike other services or businesses, first aiders hope for less or no ‘customers’, i.e. everyone is okay.
Tips: You may want to keep a free Heart4Life app in your mobile phone.
I like the “CPR mode” because it is very easy to follow, especially when we are highly tense tending to the casualty, who can be our loved one.
The app also includes a 2.5-minute CPR video by Singapore Heart Foundation, which is also available in Youtube.
Important: This brief note here is not a substitute for live training, please kindly go for a CPR training by the professionals at your area, if you are interested to learn about CPR.
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AEDs also remind me on Monaco, where I saw many AEDs and yachts in a single day!
Yes, both are ubiquitous there.
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Sorry, I digress.
Back to the Central Fire Station …
Your children and you can get inside an ambulance. This way, your first encounter with the inner side of the ambulance was a happy experience.
Baby Ren and I were standing very close to an ambulance when an older adventurous boy intentionally or unintentionally pressed the siren button.
WEE- WOO! WEE- WOO! WEE-OO! WEE-OO!
Very loud! Baby Ren immediately hug me tightly. It’s okay, honey!
The guide mentioned that a family member or friend of the casualty is usually asked to go with the ambulance. It’s definitely one of the most stressful rides for the person, always asking is his or her loved one is okay.
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When my mother was in her teen, a colossal fire engulfed and destroyed her home and community in Sukaramai. She lost everything except her life and few clothings that she managed to rescue using a bed sheet with its 4 corners tied together as a big carrier.
Many decades down the road, thanks to a kind distant relative, my mother managed to retrieve a family photograph (taken while she was in early primary school). People in the black-and-white photograph includes my tanned grandfather, my beautiful grandmother, my mother, her two brothers and a sister. She cherished the photograph so much! It is the only copy of family photograph that survived.
A photograph can be an evidence that someone had ever lived, especially for people who have never experienced digital world.
My maternal grandfather passed away when I was a toddler. I did not remember him much, but I cherish so much the photograph of the toddler-me hugging or clasping his leg in Brastagi (Berastagi).
The snap of memory that tells how much he has loved me, his first grandchild.
Waigong died of heart attack, and nobody (including himself) knew that he had a heart problem. Dajiu ( my first uncle), found him too late to save his life.
Pearls of tear drops flow on my cheek now. I wish I could knew more about you in person, Grandpa!
Nowadays, I helped Mom backing-up precious family photographs and videos. Never let fire (or any other disaster) steals your memory!
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During my childhood in Jakarta, Dad and Mom had to work until very late at nights. Home alone, with my younger sister and brother, I was always alert hearing the siren of fire engine.
At that time, I did not know if it is either my adrenaline or cortisol that immediately spiked up.
I prayed that the volume of the siren to lower as the clock ticks in seconds – that’s mean the fire happened far from our dwelling.
We lived in the second floor, which was a blessing because Jakarta has suffered from floods at least annually. Relatively safe from the excessive water hazard, this possesses a challenge for fire and earthquake hazard.
Dad, not being paranoid but careful, made an emergency ladder of ropes and small wooden planks for us. The ladder was always placed beneath the window.
Dad instructed us to go down using the ladder in the event of fire and our parents were away working.
Thank you Papa for loving and caring us, for teaching us survival skills!
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FIRE SAFETY (main points are from a postcard of Civil Defense Heritage Gallery)
What to do … when you are trapped?
1. Stay calm
2. Enter a safe room, preferably one that overlooks a road.
3. Shut the door behind you. Cover the bottom gap of the door using wet clothes to prevent smoke from seeping through.
4. Call 995 and shout for help from the windows or other openings. Wait for rescue to arrive.
5. Cover your mouth and nose with wet clothes.
6. If you are on high floors, do not attempt to jump out of building. Help will be on the way very soon. Pray!
Tips: If you have locked window grills, keep the key at the accessible site in the same room.
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We were very happy with the educational and entertaining visit to the Central Fire Station. Baby Ren even dreamed of tutu in his afternoon nap.
If you have a free Saturday morning in Singapore, I’d recommend visiting the Central Fire Station open house (9am-11am), followed by a visit to Civil Defence Heritage Gallery. Both are free of charge.
At historical level 1, we learned more about the Bukit Ho Swee Fire (河水山大火) on May 25, 1961 at 3.20 p.m. The devastating fire led to the HDB public housing scheme. As of 2014, 82% of Singaporeans (including baby Ren and his family) live in HDB flats.
Antique fire engines are on display. They played roles in keeping people safe, and now retired they served as educational huge toys for children and grown-ups.
At modern level 2, your little ones can don on SCDF firefighter uniform and hat, or put off ‘fire’ thorugh a virtual fire window.
I appreciate many interactive stations that help children to learn about firefighting and rescue technology.
Baby Ren in a firefighter uniform reminds me on on Paddington Bear who was discovered in Paddington Station, London.
Baby Ren looks like a trophy won by the fearless firefighters. Cheers to the handsome brothers and abang!
“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, & how to be free from it, that’s the point. Necessity of action takes away the fear of the act, and makes bold resolution the favorite of fortune.” ~ Francis Quarles
You may also want to do a virtual tour of the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery.
Outside the gallery is a souvenir shop with many toys of fire engines being displayed. These really make little boys like baby Ren very excited and happy!
Address: 62 Hill Street 638482 ; nearby MRT stations City Hall or Clarke Quay
Final words … Thank you very much firefighters! You are our heroes and heroines.