SCDF taps ideas from officers who provide feedback on operations

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SCDF taps ground officers' feedback to evolve tools, fire-fighting technology

A 2005 house fire in Irrawaddy Road was what sparked Senior Warrant Officer (SWO) Zahari Mohd Zain's first invention in his 36-year career with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Then a deputy rota commander at Paya Lebar Fire Station, SWO Zahari and his men fought the fire, which had started at the entrance.

But they could not get into the unit to put out the blaze that was spreading inwards as their hose line was too short.

They had to run back to the water pump, identify the hose they were using, and turn off its water supply before switching to a longer hose.

Therein lay the problem.

"The hoses were very messy... If we shut off the wrong hose, we could endanger other firefighters' lives," said SWO Zahari.

So he made a shut-off valve prototype from two recycled couplings and a store-bought valve, which was then approved by SCDF's logistics department and put up for tender.

This led to the birth of the Shut Off Valve Adaptor (Sova) in 2007, a coupling device used to control water flow which can be affixed anywhere along the hose line.

SWO Zahari's invention is still used by SCDF firefighters.

Sova is an example of how the SCDF taps ideas from ground officers in the best position to provide feedback on operations, said Major Zhou Yansheng, innovation development officer.

SCDF's Workplan Seminar next Wednesday will keep up its yearly tradition of unveiling new firefighting technology to better help ground staff carry out operations.

"Our challenges are changing. Buildings are going higher, structures are getting deeper, and industries are also changing," said Major Zhou.

With today's cramped HDB flats and office spaces, dousing a unit with water would cause serious property damage - not only to that unit itself, but also to adjacent ones.

To resolve this, SCDF has equipped its Red Rhino vehicles with compressed air foam (CAF) pump systems. Since 2014, CAF has replaced its old systems which used water mist technology and impulse guns.

Apart from hardware innovation, SCDF aims to "people innovate" by introducing new skill sets to ground staff through courses.