Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomesingaporeSCDF to introduce remote air tank monitoring for firefighters in 2024

SCDF to introduce remote air tank monitoring for firefighters in 2024

SINGAPORE: From the middle of 2024, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will be able to remotely monitor how much air firefighters have left in their tanks.

Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam announced this on on Tuesday (Nov 7), in a written response to a question from Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai on the review of procedures, equipment and training following the death of a 19-year-old firefighter last year.

The project, which was initiated two years ago, will see the apparatus progressively deployed from mid-2024, said Mr Shanmugam.

It will enable transmission of the data of the air capacity remaining in a firefighter’s breathing apparatus to the Staging and Breathing Apparatus Control Officer (BACO) control point for monitoring.

“This next-generation breathing apparatus will also come with a personnel distress device (PDD) that is automatically activated once the tank is turned on, as compared to the existing PDD which must be manually turned on by the firefighter,” he added.

“With the new PDD, after a period when the firefighter is motionless, the PDD will automatically trigger an alert to the BACO control point, so that officers there can make appropriate interventions.”

Sergeant 1 (SGT1) Edward H Go, a full-time national serviceman, fell unconscious while battling a fire at a Henderson Road Housing Board flat in December last year.

He was immediately taken out of the unit and given cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An ambulance crew at the scene also used an automated external defibrillator on him. He was later taken to Singapore General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He was the first firefighter to die because of an SCDF operation. An autopsy found that the cause of death was suffocation due to a depleted air cylinder.

Muhammad Kamil Mohamed Yasin, who was SGT1 Goh’s superior, has been charged with causing grievous hurt by leaving him alone to fight the fire, which goes against SCDF protocols.

Related:

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LAPSES IN PREVIOUS OPERATIONS

Mr Shanmugam said SCDF had convened an internal review group to conduct a detailed after-action review of the firefighting operation that day, covering firefighting procedures, operational safety, equipping and training.

An audit of more than 260 firefighting operations in 2021 and 2022, where at least one firefighting jet was deployed, also found that while operations had “largely been conducted competently and safely”, there were individual lapses.

This includes instances where officers were not wearing personal protective equipment or not using the self-contained breathing apparatus during damping down operations. This refers to the process of wetting burnt surfaces immediately after a fire is put out to prevent it from rekindling.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO IMPROVE OPERATIONAL SAFETY

In addition to new breathing apparatus, body-worn cameras (BWCs) will also be issued to all section commanders by March 2024.

Currently, only officers appointed as deputy rota commander and higher are issued with such cameras.

“The wider deployment of BWCs will enhance the quality of post-incident after-action reviews,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“By mid-2024, when the camera is capable of livestreaming to the SCDF Operations Centre, it will also enhance sensemaking during ongoing incidents.”

A BACO control point has also been implemented for all residential unit fires since Sep 18.

This helps ground commanders to track the deployment of firefighters, as well as to check on the personal protective equipment of the teams before they are sent to the scene of the fire. This control point was previously only established for major fire incidents.

The selection process for ground commanders will also be enhanced, with the SCDF conducting a comprehensive review of their training.

Mr Murali additionally asked about the deployment of full-time national servicemen, in particular, as firefighters, and how their safety would be ensured.

In his response, Mr Shanmugam highlighted that only those who are certified to be medically fit and of Physical Employment Status A, B1 or B2 – which indicates that they are suitable for frontline operational vocations or frontline support vocations – will be deployed as firefighters.

He added that firefighting trainees are trained with “live” fire simulators to gain relevant experience operating in conditions that closely resemble real fires.

Training also continues as part of firefighters’ daily routine, with annual proficiency tests to ensure that their skills and fitness levels continue to meet the required standards.

“The safety of all SCDF personnel, whether they are Regulars, NSFs, NSmen or Volunteers, is of paramount importance to us,” he added. “We will continue to make sure that they are well trained and properly equipped to carry out their duties, safely and effectively.”

Related:

NSF firefighter dies after falling unconscious while battling blaze at Henderson Road flat

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Family, friends bid final farewell to NSF firefighter who died battling Henderson Road blaze
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