Fire Department to Be Sued, Experts’ Analysis of 6 Firemen Deaths Will Make You Question the SOP

The death of six bomba divers during a search and rescue (SAR) mission in Puchong mining pond last week had shocked the whole nation. Malaysians were saddened by the loss of six brave souls with many commanded their strong spirit of service.

Fire and Rescue Department’s director-general Mohammad Hamdan Wahid had made various announcements to reassure the public and most importantly the next-of-kin with comforting statements, such as confirming the divers had followed the department’s standard of operation (SOP) during the mission, promising to review the SOP, and the affected family would be properly compensated with insurance.

With all due respect to the brave souls and their family members, there’s another side of the story that you might not have heard. Its presence isn’t to downplay the victims’ sacrifice but to lay the facts, or at the very least, experts’ analysis of the situation so that the fire department could better prepare for future incidents.

To sum up this side of the story, FeedMe Malaysia has put it in these 10 points:

1. It wasn’t a rescue mission to begin with

On Saturday (Oct 6), netizen Chin took to Facebook to give her perspective on the incident. The post which was continuously updated up until yesterday (Oct 9) had gathered over 9,000 shares with most netizens agreeing to her analysis of the water disaster.

First thing first, Chin said the operation wasn’t a rescue mission to begin with but rather a body recovery operation. The boy fell into the mining pond at about 5pm and the firemen only descended into the water at 9pm.

“It was already 9pm when the water rescue team started searching. The boy had already been dead for a full 4 hours. How could Hamdan Wahid possibly defend this as a rescue?

“If he does not know that humans cannot survive for more than 5 minutes underwater, how did he become a Director-General of saving lives? I already learned this as a Girl Guide in Form 2. What’s the DG’s excuse?”

She contended that the SOP made the six bomba men formed into a human chain and hoped they could “bump into the corpse with their legs” was obvious that it was a recovery operation. She further questioned the timing of the mission when body recovery operation could always wait until the next morning.

“It was totally negligent of him (person in charge) to send in the men for something that could well have waited till morning. The men didn’t have the right equipment, didn’t know the right technique, and were not even looking in the right place!”

FMT reported that the boy’s body was found floating 800m away from the point he fell.

2. About the equipment… the bomba men were poorly prepared

Chin had a lot to say about this and she even took the time to review the photos and videos across multiple media to prove her point.

Taking the photo above for scrutiny, she said the bomba men didn’t buckle up the life vest securely. When in contact with water, the vest would float above the water while the men’s mouth and ear would level with the water, Chin explained. It’s definitely an avoidable disadvantage.

Even if the men eventually put on the life vests in accordance with the standard, Chin said they were wearing multiple layers of thick, loose clothes.

“If you fall in, these clothes alone would drown you. They should be wearing fitted swimsuits or wetsuits, especially if it has been raining cos the water would be freezing, what more at night,” Chin continued.

The next no-no was their boots, something which she claimed as “the worst crime of all”. She explained that when the men tried to swim or tread in the water, the boots would be filled with water and pulled the men down. She, again, questioned the SOP and who was the person in charge to authorize the men to go down the water so poorly equipped.

She said the men should be wearing scuba booties.

3. Wrong CPR method

Referring to the method of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was used after the victims were pulled ashore, Chin said the victims’ body was put on a slope with their head on top. Instead, the head should be placed downwards, along with the gravity, to allow water to be drained out from their lungs.

“If you still cannot get a breath in after doing this, perform the Heimlich maneouvre by making sharp thrusts on the diaphragm, in and up towards the lungs to expel water from the lungs.

“Don’t press straight down or you will just expel the stomach contents. When there is no more water, then only begin chest compressions. If you don’t drain the lungs first, there is no use doing anything else,” wrote Chin, adding that this was another mistaken SOP.

Here’s the video of the CPR action she was referring to:

4. This is not the first time bomba sent young, inexperienced men for high-risk operation

Citing to a post written by one of the victims, Yahya Ali’s close friend, Chin said bomba tend to sent greenhorns into danger. She asked where were the experience bomba men that were more prepared for a job like this.

“Apparently, this is quite the norm. Last Raya, when the dept was short-staffed as most of them had balik kampung, the juniors were made to stay.

“The writer (first picture left) did his first rescue dive at night in a swift-flowing river. He admitted that he was not confident. Is this something you would let a beginner do on his first dive? Never, ever, ever!! Even worse, he was put in charge of the other newbies as well, letting Malik (another deceased) dive and Yahya drive the fire truck instead because Yahya did not feel confident about diving.

“So the fire dept’s culture of throwing juniors into the deep end with no experienced diver in charge didn’t just start on the day they died.

“Not only that, they even put a newbie in charge of the whole team when he himself was just diving for the first time. How can anyone do his shit?? And today their luck ran out.”

Chin asked if the person in charge was also inexperience which cost the six men drowned.

5. Who is the person in charge which got 2 ministers, and Bomba DG to “defend” for him?

Clearly unhappy with the mysterious leader of the mission, Chin pulled articles from NST and The Star to point out statements made by Deputy Law Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Kamarul Bahrin, and Hamdan Wahid (Director-General of Fire and Rescue Department).

Chin was trying to convey that these top brass leaders were all trying to hide the blame away from the person in charge or push it away from the department’s SOP.

When Hamdan Wahid was asked why the operation wasn’t put off, he explained it involved the rescue of a life. Hanipa Maidin, however, urged the public not to blame any parties involved in the operation. As for Kamarul Bahrin, whose ministry is in-charge with the Fire and Rescue Department, he said the unfortunate demise was “a one in a million situation beyond anyone’s control.”

The latter’s statement was also not agreed by a water rescue expert:

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