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Treating a gaping wound on a narrow platform 10 storeys high: SCDF specialist recounts crane rescue

Treating a gaping wound on a narrow platform 10 storeys high: SCDF specialist recounts crane rescue

The Singapore Civil Defence Force DART team involved in the operation. (Photo: SCDF)

SINGAPORE: When Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) rescuer Sergeant (SGT3) Muhammad Faris Mohammed finally reached the casualty, he knew that immediate medical attention was needed.

"That person was suffering from quite a severe injury," the 33-year-old, a member of SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), told reporters on Thursday (Sep 10).

"There was an open wound on his left leg, from below the hip all the way down to near the ankle."

But SGT3 Faris was not attending to any normal medical emergency. He was crouching on a narrow platform, barely enough space for two people to stand side by side, suspended 10 storeys high.

He did not have the luxury of laying out his medical equipment and the windy conditions made things trickier. Everything, including his body, was attached to a harness that would prevent a fatal free fall. 

READ: SCDF responders rescue injured worker from 40m-high crane

In the late afternoon on Monday, SCDF firefighters and DART rescue specialists rushed to a construction site on How Sun Drive after a man working on a 40m-tall crane had injured his leg and was stuck.

SCDF said the team is used to rescues from height, as responders are commonly deployed to residential units when people are at risk of jumping.

But the fact that this was a medical emergency on a crane, made it one of the more complex operations, said SCDF.

At the construction site, four DART rescuers stayed on the ground to prepare a stretcher for the casualty.

Another four, including SGT3 Faris, climbed a ladder to the top of the crane before traversing 15m of the narrow platform to where the man was sitting.

"I tried to make him comfortable by letting him lie down and provided him with some oxygen," said SGT3 Faris, who is also trained as an emergency medical technician.

SGT3 Faris assessed that the man needed treatment immediately as the rescue operation would take some time, adding that the man was cooperative and moved as he was told.

SGT3 Faris bandaged the wound to prevent infections while his colleagues set up a rope and pulley system for the stretcher. "We tried our best to shorten the time needed to bring him down," SGT3 Faris said.

An SCDF rescuer and an injured worker on a stretcher are lowered to the ground. (Screengrabs: Facebook/SCDF)

With that done, DART teams on the crane and on the ground hoisted the stretcher to where the man was and secured him firmly on it. The stretcher's multiple straps prevented any slipping out regardless of the casualty's movement.

SGT3 Faris said patient safety is a priority. "We ensured that we have good anchorage," he added. "We ensured all our attachments are clearly secured before we helped the patient into the stretcher itself."

Even before the stretcher was lowered, a DART rescuer first rappelled off to test the strength of the rope system. The man was brought to the ground about an hour into the operation.

An SCDF paramedic assessed the man before he was sent to Sengkang General Hospital. The Ministry of Manpower is investigating the incident.

NO FEAR OF HEIGHTS

Recounting his story, SGT3 Faris seemed unfazed by the dizzying height and claustrophobic conditions involved in the operation. He has been with the SCDF for 11 years and had also served as a firefighter.

"Before we even enter the DART unit, we have a fair share of training where we have to overcome these challenges," he said.

After all, DART specialists are trained for complex operations like urban and water search and rescue as well as heli-bucket operations. Some are also deployed overseas for major disaster relief efforts.

SGT3 Faris said his wife, two sons and a daughter understand the extra risks that come with him being in DART. 

"I explain to my family that safety is our first priority," he added. "This helps them have peace of mind when I am at work. SCDF prepares us for these types of situations."

DART commander Lieutenant-Colonel Lok Wee Keong, 43, said rescuers do a lot of hoisting and lowering while training on a hose tower, which is almost as tall as a crane.

"Frankly speaking, everyone has a fear of heights," he added. "It's about overcoming the fear. With proper training, I think you will get more used to it."

Source: CNA/hz(ta)

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