Adapted from The Star Tuesday July 7, 2009

THE St. John’s Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM) chapter in Port Dickson has recorded a first by becoming the only team to have its very own Baywatch unit in the country and possibly in South-East Asia.

Although the word “Baywatch” may conjure up images of red swimsuit-clad women running slow motion on the beach, this 60-member team bears little resemblance to the TV series of the same name other than its shared passion for saving lives.

The brainchild of Negri Sembilan SJAM Area Two Commander Dr Mahadevan Deva Tata, the team will be on duty on weekends and school holidays when the beaches are the busiest.

“I embarked on the project with the support and encouragement of our national commander-in-chief Datuk Dr Low Bin Tick who had talked about forming such a unit years ago.

“We both shared a dream of making Baywatch a reality. As a student in the West Indies, I saw how their Baywatch teams helped save lives,” Mahadevan said after the launch of the SJAM Baywatch recently.

He said the resort town swelled up with some 30,000 visitors on weekends, which means the Baywatch team has their work cut out for them.

“Having served at the PD hospital, I understand first-hand the necessity of having such a unit to adminster basic first aid to those who require it, especially at the beach areas.

“It wasn’t an easy task as we had to draft our very own beach first-aid guidelines but it was definitely worth the effort,” said the doctor.

Stationed along the 8th mile beach (which sees the most visitors), the six-man team works on two shifts from 8am to 7pm daily.

For practice: SJAM Baywatch members rescuing a victim from near drowning during a mock rescue operation at the recent launch of the rescue unit in Port Dickson.

Volunteers are only given a food allowance and yet many come from as far as Kuala Lumpur and Bahau to patrol the beach here.

Mahadevan said the volunteers deserve their due recognition for their selfless service.

“Team members went through rigorous training with our own medical team and with the Fire and Rescue Services Department’s scuba diving team before we went public,” he said.

The unit is led by team commander Datuk Capt (R) R. Kumaravel, a former military man and assisted by SJAM area medical officers which consists of a team of three doctors and five staff nurses trained in handling emergencies.

In addition to learning how to treat minor injuries, members are trained to operate equipment such as jet-skis and rescue boats which are essential in search and rescue operations.

Baywatch unit in place: SJAM commander Datuk Goh Siow Huat (right), state speaker Datuk Razak Mansor (centre), Kumaravel (left) and Dr Mahadevan at the launch.of the unit.    

Mahadevan said he had received positive feedback since the Baywatch team was unveiled and had been urged to do the same for other beaches in the area.

“But we don’t have the manpower and the resources to do so at the moment.

“I can only hope the success of our team inspires others to join us and help save lives and make our beaches a safe place to be,” he said.

St. John Ambulance of Negeri Sembilan Headquarters, No. 4, Jalan Dr. Krisnan, 70000 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan Darul Khusus

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