In emergencies, every second counts. The Neighbourhood Active Responder Programme (Near), which trains new and existing volunteers in life-saving and other emergency skills, can now help to make a difference before paramedics arrive.
At its launch yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said Near is part of the solution for the Home Team in meeting the needs of an ageing population.
He said that the Home Team cannot simply rely on recruitment to speed up emergency response time, because the pool of young Singaporeans is shrinking. Speaking at Tampines Green, he said: "At the same time, we are also getting more and more people who are getting older in our community..."
The number of citizens aged 65 and above grew from 318,000 in 2009 to 415,000 last year. This has partly fuelled 31 per cent more ambulance calls over the period.
Near is a collaboration by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the Singapore Police Force and the People's Association. Under its pilot phase being rolled out in Tampines East and Tampines West constituencies, about 100 volunteers would be deployed on weekends between 10am and 10pm from designated response stations such as the residents' committee (RC) centres.
They will provide the first response to home fires, which make up a large number of calls that the SCDF responds to.
These volunteers could also help to evacuate residents to safety and respond to medical situations requiring first-aid treatment, including cardiac arrest cases.
Said Tampines Green Residents' Committee chairman Ho Yih, 55, who has stepped forward to be a Near volunteer: "Time is of critical essence. Before the paramedics arrive, we can help to attend to injuries."
This article was first published on March 22, 2015.
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