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Guardian angels in times of crisis

March 05, 2017

Mobile medicine

Mobile medicine:  Superintendent (Ambulance) Wong Ying-keung shows the medical tools aboard the Paramedic Equipment Tender, an emergency vehicle for large incidents.

Disaster drill

Disaster drill:  Ambulance officers demonstrate how to treat a burn victim by applying saline water to the injury.

Healing wheels

Healing wheels:  The Mobile Casualty Treatment Centre allows doctors to do life-saving surgery at the scene of an incident.

When incidents happen, fire and ambulance officers are among the first on the scene. 

 

They co-ordinate emergency rescue efforts and tend to the injured. 

 

In the face of disaster, they stay calm, and console and treat casualties before sending them to hospital.

 

On February 10 an arson attack on board a packed MTR train turned Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station into a chaotic scene, with injured passengers scattered across the station platform. 

 

Ambulance officers from Tsim Sha Tsui Fire Station were the first aid workers to arrive at the smoky scene, searching for casualties, doing triage and initial treatment.

 

Situational awareness

Ambulanceman Tang Kwok-wai, one of the first officers to arrive, said his first task was to find casualties, do a risk assessment of the scene, decide how much reinforcement to call for, and report to the control centre.

 

He said ambulance officers must consider the possibility there might be many more casualties at the scene, and cannot spend too much time treating whoever they see first.

 

"On the way to the platform, people told us many were injured and urged us to help them quickly. But if I had treated whoever I saw first, I would have overlooked other areas with victims waiting for help."

 

Superintendent (Ambulance) Wong Ying-keung supervised the relief operation on that night. 

 

He said injured passengers were sometimes behind columns on the station platform, making it difficult for aid workers to find them.

 

"The distribution of manpower should be done very carefully. When treating burn victims, we assess the extent of their wounds, and check their pulse and breathing. We give oxygen to them if necessary and apply saline water to the burnt area to cool it."

 

Both kinds of trauma

Fellow Ambulanceman Ng Ka-ho said many of the casualties were traumatised by the attack and needed consoling.

 

"I told them not to be afraid as they will be sent to hospital soon."

 

Officer Ng was the first aid worker to find Audrey Ko, the youngest victim of the attack at just 16.

 

"Her legs were burnt quite severely. Her face was blackened. But she was calm and very brave. She didn’t cry and yell.

 

"She just followed my instructions after I told her not to worry. She is a courageous girl."

 

Well equipped

Sixteen ambulances and 59 ambulance officers were deployed to the scene. 

 

Superintendent Wong said the incident also required the deployment of three special vehicles.

 

"The Rapid Response Vehicle is designed for emergency situations. After it arrives at the scene, an ambulance officer will be put in charge of co-ordinating the relief effort.

 

"The Paramedic Equipment Tender, another fire services vehicle for big-scale incidents, is outfitted with lots of paramedic equipment. On the day of the attack, oxygen tanks and burn dressings on the truck were used to treat the casualties.

 

"The third vehicle is the Mobile Casualty Treatment Centre. It is a mobile operating theatre for doctors to do emergency life-saving surgeries before carrying casualties to hospital."

 

Unsung heroes

Within an hour, 13 casualties, including six with serious burns, were given prompt treatment at the scene and sent to hospital.

 

Lives were saved.

 

Superintendent Wong added: "The mission of ambulance officers is to give casualties the best initial treatment and send them to hospitals safely."

 

A mission which Hong Kong's emergency officers carry out with gallant professionalism, despite the risks to their own lives.



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