Choice of words and self confidence, a firefighter’s vital tools

From left: PBK II John Chung, PB Nur Ahliea Summaya Sandai PBK II Suboh Man and PBK II Rodziah Berawi preparing the relevant equipment for rescue mission.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Jan 8: Choice of words and self confidence are the tools firefighters carry with them as their equipment when it comes to attempt suicide cases.

Yes, they rush to the scenes with their ropes, harnesses and necessary tools, but at the end of a case, it will always be how they coax men and women deep in despair.

The moment their fire station alarm rings to respond to any emergencies, they will know what sort of cases they are attending to.

A team of firefighters from the assigned station must leave within 60 seconds after receiving the distress call because every second counts and they must reach the scene as fast as possible before tragedy strikes.


Stopping any suicide attempts is a job that these rescuers know they must handle with extra care because it involves not just the victim but their own safety as well.

Firefighter PBK II John Chung and his colleague PBK II Suboh Man from Padungan fire station emphasised that it is necessary to establish the first contact or relation with the person who attempted suicide.

From left: PBK II John Chung and PBK II Rodziah Berawi assisting their colleague PBK II Suboh Man to wear his body harness.

The relationship must be non-threatening, relaxed, sympathetic and friendly.

Hence, they must be very careful with their choice of words used.

“We will sit or stand as close as possible with the suicidal person for as long as it takes to persuade them to continue living with key phrases that are usually revolve around family members.

“We will tell them to think about their spouse, children, parents and what will happen to these people,” Suboh told DayakDaily.

Relating how he relied on experiences and communication skills, Suboh, 48, has handled three attempt cases such as jumping from high buildings and bridges.

Suboh also warned that during the crucial moments to change a suicidal victim’s intention, rescuers must never make promises or give false hope.

“Instead, we will try to make a suicidal person regrets their intention and distract their attention. Once we know that is happening, we will immediately act and grab or jump in,” Suboh added.

PBK II Suboh Man preparing to wear his body harness while PBK II John Chung preparing the ropes for rescue mission.

Chung, 52, who has handled no less than five attempt suicide cases is also a member of the Fire and Rescue Department Malaysia elite airborne Multi-Skill Team (MUST).

He said although there are several ways to persuade a suicidal person, the firefighter’s self confidence is equally crucial.

“We must be prepared to handle the situation. Not just in terms of accessing the situation or equipment needed, but mentally.

“Persuading a suicidal person is different. We do not know nor can we identify whether that person is determined to take the plunge or still uncertain to kill themselves because we don’t know what is going on in their minds,” Chung said, adding that there were also cases of mentally ill or even handicapped person attempting suicide.

He explained that if he is confident that the person seems to be in the right frame of mind, Chung will talk and persuade them out of suicide.

But if it is a case of mentally ill person, they have have to act and catch immediately.

Once communication is initiated, Chung said he will let the person feel free to say what she or he feels and from there, it will guide him on clues as to how to understand and help.

Another example of an important element is guilt.

Chung further explained that a suicidal person can feel guilty because of conflicts experienced, which is why firefighters who intervene must be very careful with what they say, avoiding negative elements such as accusation, criticising the behaviour or intention.

However, regardless of slow or immediate act, firefighters also assess the location, scene and situation for the safety of both suicidal person and themselves.

“Hence, proper techniques and equipment such as harnesses and ropes are important in our rescue missions.

“Based on our experiences, safety must always come first. That is why, firefighters must have the expertise to use ropes, what type of knots, how to tie ourselves and catch the victims,” explained Chung, adding all actions taken by firefighters are done in a calculated manner.

From left: PBK II John Chung, PB Nur Ahliea Summaya Sandai, PBK II Rodziah Berawi and PBK II Suboh Man preparing the relevant equipment for rescue mission.

Meanwhile, woman firefighter PBK II Rodziah Berawi from the same fire station observes that suicidal people tend to be calmer with they see firefighters in orange camouflage.

“Based on my experience handling suicidal persons, they somehow feel threatened when confronted by police officers. Perhaps they fear of being caught, charged in court and sent to prison for attempted suicide.

“Before we arrive, victims refused to talk to other people but when they see firefighters, it seems that they know we are there to rescue them. When we start conversing, they seemed to be willing to talk to us about their problems and intention, although it might take a while for them to do so,” Rodziah said.

As a firefighter’s job is to save and rescue, none of them want any failure or unsuccessful case as it will cause deep regrets among them.

On the other hand, every successful case will give much relief for them, as they are also human beings with family like any of us. — DayakDaily