MVFRA VISSION - To Be The Leading Volunteer  Fire & Rescue Association in The Region

All prepared to swing into action
THE SUN, May 2

A sense of urgency and tension prevailed as eight figures, geared in life jackets and goggles and harnesses with a rope, waded against the strong flowing river current.

They were looking for a "victim" believed to be trapped between the huge rocks of the rivers. As soon as the victim was in sight, a net stretcher and floats were provided by the back-up members to bring the victim to safety.

It may seem a fairy simple exercise but for the eight people in the water, who were carrying out their duties as trained jungle and water survival rescuers of the Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, their own lives hang in the balance while saving the lives of others.

Bala instructs his members before the start of a mission.

Everyone is at risk. That is why I always make sure that experienced volunteers are the first choice when it comes to rescue work as the safety of my members are my priority,” said chairman of the association K. Balasupramaniam. 

The association conducts public safety awareness courses such as jungle and rescue survival one-day camps, Fire Hydrant Adoption Campaign, Zero Fire Campaign and Road Rescue Riders Programme.

“All these are to create and fortify public awareness. It is also to train them on the usage and preventive methods for fire and accidents. After all, prevention is better than cure,” Balasupramaniam stressed.

Balasupramaniam, who is better known as Tuan Bala, is happy the jungle and survival camp that the association started in March this year has met with good public response.

“While the limit is 20 people at a time, around 40 always show up,” he said. “It shows that people are becoming more aware about safety precautions.”

The association, which was set up in as a back-up squad to the Fire and Rescue Department, has 880 registered members in the Federal Territory and Selangor though only 183 are active members.

Nationwide, there are 13,500 registered volunteer fire-fighters. “Most people sign up expecting to get material gains from the association but instead they get knowledge and education,” said Bala.

Besides jungle and water survival training, the members go through a regular systematic training programme every weekend led by senior instructor Anita Lim and two others in their San Pen base to handle fire protection and fire-fighting operations safety correctly.

They are also trained in drilling, swimming, rappelling and abseiling, cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic emergency patient care training

HOLD TIGHT...firefighters attempt to transport a float to the rescue team.

According to Anita, 24, one of the 10 women members of the association, the members go through a practical and theory examination before they are sent to units once the three month basic course is over.

“Everyone must have a motorcycle license and practice the CPR methods once every month. Accidents can occur may time and we have to be prepared.”

With five years’ experience behind herm Anita remembers the incident of a fire hat broke out the third floor of Tuanku Abdul Rahman college (TAR) last year. “The whole place was engulfed in smoke and I had to climb up to hose down the fire which took about two hours to control,” she recalled.

The members who stay after the initial three-month course and participate actively in the association are the ones who live up to the true spirit of volunteerism because they come up with funds of their own to support their cause.

Among there are firefighters Sharul Ariffin Mohd Arif and his childhood firend Rashidi Kamaruddin, both 24, who both say that becoming members of the unit have made them disciplined and purposeful in their endeavors.

Said Sharul Ariffin, who started in : “ I would be involved in productive work rather than just lepak around as I gain knowledge and learn to handle responsibility.”

For Rashidi, joining the team is a real challenge to his adventures nature besides doing a service to society.

Even though Sundays are often spent on training, my commitment lies here,” he said adamantly.

They agree though that being a firefighter is no easy task as their training is tough and continuous.

SUCCESS..the `victim' is hauled up to safety.

“But we are willing to go through it as the team spirit is strong and we have a good captain in Tuan Bala,” confirmed Rashidi.

For a volunteer firefighter, a complete uniform costs about RM200- RM 250 and when their services are needed at courses and accidents, the members do not get automatic leave from their employers but apply for it.

Besides this, the running of the association and the equipment used is funded by the members themselves.

“Whenever we conduct seminars and courses for companies and factories, a fee is charged to maintain the association,” said Bala.

Having been in the line for 12 years, Bala, who is in his late 20s, said that more people should be aware of safety measures as lives are on the line.

“The problem is nobody believes there things happen until they do and most of the time it is too late,” he said.

“I have been washed away by the currents at Sungai Pertak, Kuala Kubu Baru, four times,” he recalled.

The most recent case of a lack of safety awareness is the drowning incident at Sungai Chilling waterfall where five lives were lost near Pertak, Kuala Kubu Baru, on April 17.

“The first thing to do is not to struggle, wave your arms about in the water or swim against the current. Instead, cross your hand over your head to protect it from banging against the rocks and to fold your legs together so that they do not get caught between the rocks,” Bala advised.

When there is a group of campers, Bala advises them to inform the local police the duration of their stay.

“If they’re not back in 48 hours, they are deemed missing and a search party can be organized for them,” he said.

In fact, if there is a group of more than 20 people planning to camp near the river, Bala could offer the association’s services.

Trek into the jungle with the necessary equipment.

A random safety check would be conducted to identify the campsite and the group would be advised on the best place to camp.

“Safety should be the number one priority.

“The organizers can get in touch with us and we can provide at least two back-up fire fighters for them.

“We could even put up a safety net across the river as a precaution against being swept away by the current,” he said.

Bala hopes that more people above the age of 18 years would join the association for the sake of educating themselves on safety measures, gaining knowledge and for the challenge it presents.

“We have advisers to guide us in our training programmes. Age is no barrier because our oldest volunteer firefighter is 69 years old and going strong,” he said proudly.

As a mark of appreciation for the voluntary services of these brave individuals, the Housing and Local Government is launching the Voluntary Firefighters Day in Ipoh today.


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