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Fewer fires last year, says SCDF

The number of fire incidents fell by nearly eight per cent to 4,136 cases last year compared with 2012, a 20-year low as records before 1994 were incomplete.

SINGAPORE: The number of fire incidents fell by nearly eight per cent to 4,136 cases last year compared with 2012, a 20-year low as records before 1994 were incomplete.

More than half of these fires were caused by disposal of lighted materials such as cigarette butts, according to statistics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Four people died from fire incidents in 2013, which was three more than 2012.

Three of the victims died from residential fires of electrical causes at Marina Crescent and Jalan Gaharu, while the fourth was at a shipyard in Jalan Samulun.

But overall, there has been a drop in the number of fires across all premises.

More than 40 per cent of residential fires were caused by rubbish.

But SCDF said such fires are a "minor risk" as they do not pose a serious threat to residents or cause significant damage to property.

SCDF figures showed that the incidence of vegetation fire fell by 25 per cent last year, compared with 2012.

But it said it is concerned about the recent hot and dry spell, which seems to be coming earlier than usual this year.

SCDF is working with other government agencies such as the National Parks Board and the Singapore Land Authority to reduce the risk of such fires.

SCDF said it hopes the public can be vigilant too, as the bulk of vegetation fires are caused by human activity, including disposal of cigarette butts.

On emergency ambulance services, SCDF said it responded to about 150,000 calls last year, a 5.3 per cent increase from the year before.

96 per cent of these calls were for emergency situations.

While the number of non-emergency calls remains small, it went up by 27 per cent last year.

SCDF said mild fever, minor injuries and cuts are non-emergencies for which ambulance services should not be used.

Dr Ng Yih Yng, chief medical officer of direct medical department at SCDF, said: "We know that sometimes people think that just because you call the ambulance, it means that you will be seen and managed much quicker than if you didn't call the ambulance.

“But that's not true. Because after, even when you go to the hospital, they will re-triage you and evaluate you, and if it turns out that you were a minor emergency or a non-emergency, you would have to wait like everybody else.”

Of all the calls made, about a third were from the elderly, even though they form 10 per cent of Singapore's resident population.

The number of calls made by the elderly last year also went up by more than eight per cent.

SCDF said there has been growing demand for ambulance services from the elderly due to Singapore's ageing population.

To meet rising demand for ambulance services, SCDF is in the process of growing and upgrading its fleet of ambulances.

To beef up its call centre operations, Dr Ng said some nurses from the Health Ministry have been deployed to take calls at the SCDF 995 Operations Centre.

Dr Ng said the nurses can provide callers with instructions on how to provide chest-compression-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

He said research showed that instructing callers to perform chest compression on cardiac arrest victims can greatly improve their chances of survival, while the ambulance is on the way.

But he noted that some callers are at times upset by the number of questions SCDF officers ask while on the phone.

Dr Ng said: "Sometimes the public, because they are so worried, and the only thing they recognise is that, ‘Oh, I need the ambulance’. So they're so fixated on the ambulance coming that when you ask them questions, sometimes they get very agitated…

“But we do tell them that the ambulance is on the way. And we tell them, in the meantime, we need to ask you some questions and we might be able to provide useful advice and some things for you to do while the ambulance is on the way. And that includes providing – (via) telephone -- CPR instructions if the person is diagnosed to have a cardiac arrest."

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