Down from the ledge

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - INSIGHT -

OUR fire­fight­ers have won awards for de­vis­ing sui­cide preven­tion equip­ment, but their tool of choice is words.

They rush to the scenes with their air cush­ions, ropes and har­nesses, but they also bring along food, drinks and cig­a­rettes for the men and women deep in de­spair.

As far as pos­si­ble, the fire­men will first try to calm the sui­ci­dal per­son by chat­ting with them. The fire­men of­fer their lis­ten­ing ears; they share food and drinks, and sit with the sui­ci­dal per­son for as long as it takes to per­suade them to con­tinue liv­ing.

“We have no for­mal train­ing to han­dle such cases. So, we rely on our ex­pe­ri­ences and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, says fire­fighter Ah­mad Ir­wan Ab­dul Razak, adding it take be­tween 10 six hours to coax vic­tims and bring them to safety.

Ah­mad and col­leagues at the Hang Tuah Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment in Lumpur know some of the most ef­fec-tive words and sub­jects to use... they call them “ayat power” ( power lines).

“Th­ese key phrases re­volve around their fam­ily mem­bers and par­ents, es­pe­cially their moth­ers. For Mus­lims, we re­cite the azan ( call to prayers) to get them to think about God and their next step in life,” says the 32- year- old fire­man.

But words alone are not al­ways enough to pre­vent sui­cides.

Fire­man Hamidi Azwad Ah­mad, 25, says it’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to iden­tify whether a per­son is de­ter­mined to take the plunge or still un­cer­tain about com­mit­ting sui­cide.

“It’s hard to tell what’s go­ing on in their minds. If a per­son seems in the right frame of mind, we talk them out of sui­cide.

“But when some­one is armed and starts to threaten us, we turn to phys­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. Hence, tech­niques and equipt are im­por­tant in our res­cue mis­sions,” ex­plained Hamidi, add-ing all ac­tions taken by fire­fight­ers are in a cal­cu­lated man­ner. Last year, the Kuala Lumpur part­ment got 28 calls to res-cue peo­ple on the brink of sui­cide. This year, there have been two calls to date. De­spite their best ef­forts, last year the fire­men could not stop two per

sons from killing them- selves. The Fire Depart­ment though con­tin­ues to im­prove and im­pro­vise on their meth­ods and equip­ment to re­duce sui­cide ca­su­al­ties.

When­ever there’s a dis­tress call, th­ese fire­fight­ers are geared up with safety air cush­ion­ing ( to with­stand im­pact from 10- storey- high build­ings), ropes, har­nesses and safety nets.

Over the years, the depart­ment has up­graded its tech­niques and come up with new equip­ment to as­sist in res­cu­ing sui­ci­dal per­sons.

Last year, the Hang Tuah Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment in­vented the “Ein­stein Rope Res­cue” which won Best In­no­va­tion at the Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment’s an­nual In­no­va­tion Pro­ject com­pe­ti­tion. The rope – com­pris­ing metal cara­biner loops and a string of knots ( fish­er­man’s knot, fig­ure eight knot and bow­line knot) – is es­sen­tial as it can with­stand up to two tonnes of weight.

Stop­ping sui­cide at­tempts is a job that the fire­fight­ers know they have to do well. Of all the uni­formed per­son­nel, it is fire­fight­ers that the pub­lic seems to trust most.

Fire­fighter Mohd Iz­zat Ah­mad, 37, ob­serves that sui­ci­dal peo­ple tend to be calmer with the men in or­ange.

“They feel threat­ened when con­fronted by po­lice of­fi­cers. Their big­gest

fear is be­ing locked up in prison for at­tempted sui­cide. Of­ten enough, th­ese trou­bled in­di­vid­u­als seem will­ing to talk to us about their prob­lems. Luck­ily, we are mostly able to per­suade them to not jump,” says Mohd Iz­zat, adding sui­ci­dal per­sons are of­ten pushed to seek death as a way out of prob­lems such as fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, re­la­tion­ship is­sues and de­pres­sion.

A team of fire­fight­ers has to leave the sta­tion within 60 sec­onds of re­ceiv­ing the call of dis­tress, and they must reach the scene in 10 min­utes. “Ev­ery se­cond counts and we need to be at the scene be­fore tragedy strikes,” said Az­izan.

Af­ter each res­cue mis­sion, a post- mortem is con­ducted to dis­cuss the tech­niques em­ployed.

“We an­a­lyse what we did and talk about how we can im­prove. Through th­ese dis­cus­sions, younger fire­fight­ers have the op­por­tu­nity to learn how to deal with sui­ci­dal peo­ple,” Az­izan ex­plains.

Fire­fighter Mohd Iz­zat Ah­mad show­ing how a po­ten­tial sui­cide vic­tim is res­cued us­ing the ‘ Ein­stein Rope Res­cue’. — Pho­tos: LOW LAY PHON/ The Star

Our brave

he­roes: KL’s Hang Tuah Fire and Res­cue Depart­ment fire­fight­ers ( from left) Ah­mad, Hamidi and Mohd Iz­zat have res­cued po­ten­tial sui­cides around the city.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.