Singapore

A Force to be reckoned with

The Singapore Civil Defence Force introduced new vehicles and gadgets at its workplan seminar yesterday at ITE College East.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force introduced new vehicles and gadgets at their workplan seminar yesterday at ITE College East.

Among them is a mechanical suit that increases the strength and endurance of the wearer.

Firefighters here could possibly be the first in the world to wear an exoskeleton, a rechargeable suit to help them carry heavy loads.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs are developing it.

Still in its trial stage, it will enhance firefighting and rescue operations, and emergency medical responses.

1. EXOSKELETON

A mechanical suit that increases the strength and endurance of the wearer. Sounds like something that belongs in a comic book.

But firefighters in Singapore could possibly be the first in the world to wear an exoskeleton, a rechargeable suit to help them carry heavy loads.

The suit is still in its trial stage and is being developed by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

It will enhance firefighting and rescue operations and emergency medical responses.

Some factors the SCDF is looking at include: the suit must be lightweight, can be put on and taken off in less than five minutes, and an oxygen tank should fit on its back.

Captain Eddie Tan, 29, senior staff officer at SCDF's Operations Department, said: "The suit might be used to transport casualties.

"So wearers should be able to carry loads that are equivalent to his weight, as well as climb up and down 10 storeys at a time."

2. FIRE & RESCUE OPERATIONS SUPPORT TENDER (FROST)

The Frost is a combination of two vehicles - the Breathing Apparatus Tender (Bat) and the Damage Control Tender (DCT).

The Bat carries oxygen cylinders to firefighters while the DCT is used to improve ventilation during operations. It comes with four smoke blowers and six smoke extractors which help to mitigate smoke during and after the fire.

Captain Rayner Oon, 28, commander of Tampines fire station, said: "It's a big improvement. The capabilities of two vehicles integrated into a single one can also reduce manpower by half but doubles in productivity."

3. MASS DECONTAMINATION VEHICLE (MDV)

The MDV is an upgrade from the Personnel Decontamination Vehicle (PDV).

It can transport up to 26 personnel at a time.

The PDV can decontaminate 120 walking or 20 lying casualties.

But the MDV, which has eight shower stalls within the vehicle, allows the two to be done concurrently.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ryan Ong, Assistant Director at the SCDF's HazMat Department, said: "The shower stalls in the new vehicle not only allow more privacy, they also increase the number of people that can be decontaminated at one time."

The MDV also has an additional lane to increase decontamination capacity.

It doubles as a mass ambulance which can fit 12 stretchers.

4. MIGHTY TRANSPORTER

This multi-purpose load carrier is able to transport loads of up to 500kg and carry two casualties on stretchers. It can be controlled by a smartphone from up to 100m away.

Staff Sergeant Umar Al-Siddiq, a specialist from the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart), used his smartphone to move the transporter up and down a slope.

It stopped at the edge thanks to its edge detection feature, which prevents it from falling over.

He said: "That feature is very useful if we need to manoeuvre the transporter through narrow spaces so it can transport the load safely and securely over varying terrain."

It reduces labour, freeing up more responders for mission critical tasks such as search and rescue.

Fighting terror as a community

Terrorism is a serious threat and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) plays a key role working with the police to respond to potential incidents, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam.

In spite of the challenges the Home Team faced last year, Mr Shanmugam praised the SCDF for its ability to deal with emergencies, search and rescue operations and civil disasters.

He called it a modern, well-trained and well-equipped force.

As part of the SG Secure national movement, the SCDF will also have a shift in its community engagement approach and focus towards getting the nation ready for emergencies.

Mr Shanmugam said: "The idea that the community's safety and security is a collective responsibility is something we have to drive home."

SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap said: "SG Secure is designed to strengthen community response to help one another against the threat of terrorism and their consequences."

SCDF will recalibrate its efforts to equip volunteers with life-saving and emergency skills under the Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP). They will be taught skills including first aid and firefighting.

The CEPP was launched in 2003 but is being streamlined. Since its launch, it has seen 40,000 people trained under it annually.

The volunteers will be classified into three tiers according to skill levels and expected level of community response.

Individuals at the lowest level are "Emergency Prepared" citizens able to get themselves, their families and those near them out of harm's way. These people go through an online course.

Individuals trained in CPR and AED skills are encouraged to download and register with the myResponder app, which calls volunteers to heart attacks nearby until emergency services arrive.

Since its launch last year, about 300 community first responders have rendered assistance after receiving notifications.

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