Saving lives together

Saving lives together
DIVERSE: Three of the 11 who graduated as volunteer firefighters. (From left) Mr Farhan Ahmad Mumtaz, a Singapore PR who works in finance, Miss Mabel Ong, an NUS masters student, and Mr Andrew Xiao, who works in the food and beverage industry.

He's a paramedic, she's a firefighter. Soon, the couple will be saving lives together.

Sergeant Hazmi Aris, 24, is a paramedic in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). On Tuesday, his girlfriend, Miss Mabel Ong, 24, received her fire badge at the passing-out ceremony in the Civil Defence Academy.

Sgt Hazmi had the honour of pinning the badge on for her.

Miss Ong is part of the first batch of volunteer firefighters who graduated from the course without having prior fire-fighting experience. (See report on right.)

She is also the only woman of the 11 who graduated from the course.

Miss Ong, who is studying for her master's in Speech and Language Pathology at the National University of Singapore, said: "I've always thought of it as a second career option because I've always wanted to do a public service job. It's also instantly gratifying to save lives."

She said the toughest parts of the course for her were the physical components, some of which required lifiting heavy fire-fighting equipment.

"I had zero experience and it really challenged me. But with all the support and encouragement, I was able to do it," she said.

Miss Ong, like the other graduates, holds the rank of corporal.

She added that volunteering as a firefighter will also enable her to spend more time with her boyfriend.

They are now posted at Central Fire Station.


Sgt Hazmi said: "Firefighter training is not easy and I was a bit worried for her as the training is physically demanding. But I always knew deep down that she could do it and I'm very proud that she made it." Miss Ong also hopes that more people will volunteer.

"I hope to see more people willing to take on the challenge," she said.

"But they need to have passion."

Another graduate from the course, Mr Farhan Ahmad Mumtaz, 32, who works in the finance industry, is the only Singapore permanent resident of the group.

The Pakistani has spent 13 years here and wanted to be part of a uniform group.

"My whole family is military. My grandfather and father were in the military and my brother is a doctor in the military," he said.

He said he chose to volunteer with the SCDF as he was inspired by rescuers after getting into a road accident in Pakistan when he was 14.

"I was just the passenger of the car and wasn't injured, but it was inspirational, the effort and work they put in to help those that were. I've held them in high regard since," he said.

His fellow batch-mate, Mr Andrew Xiao, 27, who works in the food and beverage industry, was a clerk in the SCDF during his national service (NS).

"Ever since I was 16, I have been inspired by the work the SCDF does and wanted to sign on as a firefighter," he said.

"I was selected in NS for the firefighter course but dropped out due to a shoulder injury. I've regretted it ever since."

He thought his dreams were over after being re-assigned as a clerk.

So when he heard about the course, he saw it as another chance to chase his dreams.

"I'm very happy to finally be able to call myself a firefighter," he said.

Many volunteers to be firefighters

In the last five years, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has received more than 300 applications from volunteers who want to be firefighters.

It was because of such keen interest that the volunteer firefighting course was developed.

The 15-week course saw 11 graduates on Tuesday, including one from the Singapore Armed Forces and another from the Singapore Police Force.

Previously, volunteers with no prior firefighting experience could not become firefighters but were deployed under other vocations in the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) such as public education and enforcement.


The new course sees volunteers receiving similar training as that of regular firefighters, except the trainings happen on two weekday nights and once every Saturday morning.

The volunteer firefighters are required to clock at least 16 hours every month.

Colonel Abdul Razak Raheem, the director of the SCDF's Volunteer and Community Partnership Department, officiated the passing-out ceremony at the Civil Defence Academy.

He said that there are now more than 200 active volunteers in the CDAU, and the 11 graduates will join them.

"They are working adults from numerous fields such as finance and service," he said.

"We started with 14 trainees, but it has been reduced to the 11 individuals here. Why? Because the training is arduous and tough and tests not only the physique but mental stamina."

He added that the graduates had made history by being the first volunteer firefighters in Singapore.

He told the graduates: "You are one of us. You share our rights, responsibilities and liabilities. Because we are in the business of a serious business, of saving lives."

This article was first published on July 02, 2015.
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