SCDF held its first Civil Defence (CD) Volunteer Gala Nite on 19 July 2019 to honour and acknowledge the contributions of CD volunteers and celebrate the 150th year of volunteerism in civil defence. The gala dinner was held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, where over 400 SCDF volunteers and Community First Responders (CFRs) attended this milestone event in SCDF’s history.
The rich history of CD Volunteerism in Singapore dates back 150 years. This began with the formation of the Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1869, which was later replaced by the country’s first professional fire-fighting and rescue force, the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1888.
Civil Defence volunteers stood firm during the Japanese occupation of Singapore in 1941 as many stepped forward to serve in the first Auxiliary Fire Service. These volunteers paid a high price for their valiant efforts when they were imprisoned in Changi Prison after British Forces surrendered to the Japanese invaders in 1942.
When the Auxiliary Fire Service was revived in 1952 to augment the capabilities of the professional Singapore Fire Brigade, Mr Yap Swee Kang was one of the brave volunteers who joined the cause. His legacy continues to be a positive influence on others, including his daughter, Mdm Alice Yap, and granddaughter, Ms Eunice Olsen, who were there at the Gala Nite dinner.
At the dinner, President Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, presented the inaugural Outstanding SCDF Award to 12 deserving SCDF volunteers and the Community Lifesaver Award to seven members of the public whose courageous acts have saved lives.
“These volunteers form a ready pool of Community First Responders who are invaluable partners to the SCDF, to assist Singaporeans in times of emergency. They exemplify the gotong royong spirit, the willingness to care for our neighbours and to lend a helping hand,” said Mdm President Halimah Yacob in a tribute to these exemplary men and women.
A mass ‘wefie’ with President Halimah Yacob
Mdm President flanked by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law (immediate right) SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap (immediate left) during the cake-cutting session.
Mdm President presenting the Community Lifesaver Award to Mr Sherman Ang (extreme left)
Mdm President presenting the Outstanding SCDF Volunteer Award to Mr Muhammad Adhwa (extreme left)
SCDF COMR Eric Yap presenting a token of appreciation to Mdm President
In this edition, Rescue 995 features a few of the many volunteers. May their contributions inspire more people to join this community of everyday heroes and bring us closer to becoming a nation of lifesavers.
WO (RET) Yunnos Shariff
WO (RET) Yunnos Shariff, 76, grew up in Central Fire Station where his father served as a fire fighter. He followed his late father’s footsteps and joined as a firefighter with the Singapore Fire Service, now known as the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
Mr Yunnos was commissioned as a firefighter after his training and in his 41 years of service, he held numerous appointments. After his tour of duty as a fireman, he took on the appointment as an emergency call-taker and then became a supervisor in the control room at Central fire station. Mr Yunnos was eventually promoted to a dangerous trade inspector which required him to carry out enforcement checks on buildings. In this appointment, he was also tasked to be part of the inspection team for the Robinsons department store fire in 1972. Years later, he returned to the control room where he supervised three rotas (shifts) of emergency call-takers. Till today, Mr Yunnos remembers vividly mobilising firefighters to deal with the collapse of Hotel New World in 1986.
Now retired, Mr Yunnos remains an active SCDF Volunteer in the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) where he conducts heritage tours at the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery at Central Fire Station. Mr Yunnos is also known to share his many rich experiences with visitors, including his account on witnessing firefighters’ being deployed for the nation’s historic incidents such as the Maria Hertogh Riots (1950), Bukit Ho Swee Fire (1961) and MacDonald House Bombing (1965).
Mr Yap Swee Kang
Ms Eunice Olsen’s grandfather, Mr Yap Swee Kang, joined the Auxiliary Fire Service when it was revived in 1952 after the Second World War.
As a volunteer, Mr Yap was trained in civil defence skillsets and knowledge such as the act of rescuing an unconscious bomb victim, crawling through a smoke-filled room and putting out an incendiary bomb fire.
Mr Yap’s strong volunteerism spirit remains an inspiration to both his daughter, Ms Alice Yap, and grand-daughter, Ms Eunice Olsen.
Mr Muhammad Adhwa Ahlami Bin Johari
Mr Muhammad Adhwa Ahlami Bin Johari is a second-year student at Republic Polytechnic who is pursuing a Diploma in Outdoor and Adventure Learning.
Mr Adhwa joined the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) when he was in Secondary One. When asked about his motivation to join NCDCC, Mr Adhwa said that it is his passion to serve the community and to one day become a firefighter with the Life Saving Force.
Mr Neo Joon Siang
Mr Neo Joon Siang, a third-year Mechatronics Engineering student, is the President of Nanyang Polytechnic’s Civil Defence Lionhearter Club.
When Mr Joon Siang witnessed how one of his classmates was saved after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing soccer, it motivated him to serve in the CD Lionhearter Club so that he could learn CPR and save the lives of others.
Over the years, Mr Joon Siang has participated in numerous Emergency Preparedness Day events, four Singapore-Global Firefighters & Paramedic Challenges (SGFPCs), and a few minor competitions organised by the SCDF. Mr Joon Siang commits his weekends to participating in activities held by the CD Lionhearter Club.
Ms Beverley Lim
Ms Beverley Lim, a medical student at the National Technological University (NTU), and three of her friends were approaching the MRT station after a day’s lecture at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital when they witnessed a man suffering a cardiac arrest and collapsing outside the station.
Wasting no time, Ms Beverley and her friends sprang into action attempting to resuscitate the man, retrieved the AED, and called the ambulance. The man was later sent to the hospital accompanied by his family members.
“I was thankful that my friends were with me as I was in a slight panic. We were able to keep one another calm during that moment and did the best we could to help. Nonetheless, that was a good learning experience,” said Ms Beverley.
This was Ms Beverley’s first encounter with a real-life incident where a person was in need of CPR.
“Many of us may get anxious when encountering an emergency situation like this, therefore getting equipped with lifesaving skills can be very useful. Alternatively, one can help call the ambulance, find and use the AED machine, or offer assistance to the patient’s family members. These simple but critical supporting roles can be done easily without any training,” said Ms Beverley.