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On May 8, a person in Singapore took to Facebook to express her dissatisfaction, claiming that a 995 call operator allegedly hung up on her.
The complaint was attributed to one Pam Kaur, who admitted to snapping at the operator after the latter called back to ask for information.
On Saturday (May 14), the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) responded to the claims and clarified what had happened.
Woman alleged that responder’s actions demonstrated “lack of urgency and stupidity”
In a Facebook post (this is a repost) which has since been removed, Kaur said she had witnessed an accident between a Volkswagen Sirocco and a motorcyclist along the Central Expressway (CTE) around 2:40am on May 8.
She then called 995 for help, and the first responder asked her for their location and the number of the lamppost nearest to them.
Kaur claimed that the first responder then called her back to ask for the lamppost number again, which she felt was “infuriating” as it indicated a “lack of urgency and stupidity”.
She then snapped at the operator, saying that “by the time the ambulance arrives at the scene because you have a listening problem despite my clear instructions, the motorcyclist would have died”.
Kaur alleged that the operator—who she referred to as a “bonehead”—then told her, “I don’t like your tone. I don’t like the way you are speaking to me,” and hung up.
She expressed her anger at the responder’s alleged actions:
“Why the hell do you think your pathetic ego and feelings would be more important than the man who needs IMMEDIATE medical attention? Yes, okay I snapped at you. BUT aren’t you trained to deal with frantic calls which may sometimes involve people losing patience with you?”
In a subsequent edit, Kaur added that a report has been made about the incident through a relevant channel, and that she hoped the first responder involved would be “retrained” and be reminded to “remain calm and kind in all situations” on the job.
SCDF responds to claims
In a Facebook post on Saturday (May 14), SCDF shared a statement clarifying what happened that night, saying that it takes “a serious view” of such feedback.
An investigation was immediately launched to understand what happened, including reviewing the recordings of the conversation between Kaur and the SCDF officer.
According to the SCDF, this is what they found.
Caller reported accident along the PIE before Exit 8B
At 2:37am on May 8, the SCDF’s 995 call centre received a call about a road traffic accident between a car and a motorcycle.
The caller reported that the location was along the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) towards Changi before Exit 8B.
The call centre operator repeated the reported location for the caller to verify, and subsequently asked for further details, including the nature of the motorcyclist’s injuries and the number of the lamppost closest to the accident.
The caller told the operator that the lamppost number was “370F”, and when the operator tried to verify the direction on the PIE where the accident was located, the caller said “my exit towards Changi but I’m going straight towards CTE, but the lamppost number is 370F”.
The operator then told the caller that the ambulance was on its way and expressed thanks.
Ambulance could not locate accident based on caller’s information
However, the dispatched SCDF ambulance was unable to locate the accident based on the information provided by the caller, along the PIE towards Changi before Exit 8B.
The paramedic in the ambulance had to then call the caller to verify the exit and lamppost number because they are “essential reference points”.
“This seemed to frustrate the caller who made snide remarks towards the paramedic,” the SCDF statement said.
The paramedic replied to the caller, saying that she was uncomfortable with the caller’s tone. The paramedic then “disengaged from the call to focus the crew’s attention on locating the accident”.
SCDF later received a report from another caller regarding the same accident and was able to find the accident along the CTE towards Seletar Expressway (SLE), before the PIE exit.
The SCDF ambulance that was dispatched for this call arrived within eight minutes and conveyed a man to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
There were no other accidents around the initial location reported by the caller, or the actual location, during that time, SCDF said.
In-vehicle camera showed paramedic calm and polite with caller
In the SCDF’s review of the case, they found that the call centre operator who received the first call had dispatched the ambulance based on the initial information from the caller — along the PIE towards Changi before Exit 8B.
Regarding the second call, the SCDF said that the audio recording from an in-vehicle camera inside the SCDF ambulance found that the paramedic had remained “calm and polite” with the caller throughout, even at the point when she said she was not comfortable with the caller’s tone and subsequently disengaged the call.
SCDF has established sound procedure for 995 calls
The SCDF said they commend the public-spiritedness of the callers who stopped to offer assistance and call 995 after witnessing the accident.
“We would like to highlight that it is an established and sound procedure for 995 call centre operators to ask callers for key information such as prominent landmarks, building names, expressways, road names and lamppost numbers, especially when there is no specific address.
At times, we may also need to further clarify the information, particularly when our responders are unable to locate the reported incident. We seek the public’s understanding and patience about this.”
The SCDF added that members of the public are encouraged to call 995 using SCDF’s myResponder mobile application to help with accurate deployment of SCDF resources, as the app has geolocation technology to automatically determine a caller’s location.
Read the SCDF’s full post here:
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Top photos via SCDF and Facebook/Pam Kaur.