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Published: 11 Jul 2012 10:26AM (Singapore)
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Walking in the Boots of Our Fire Fighters
Twenty teachers signed up for an educational visit to the Civil Defence Academy and discovered more than they expected to.
By Hazwani Mohamed

“It was very good. I think it’s very enriching,” said Ms Leow repeatedly.

Ms Leow, a Math teacher in Radin Mas Primary School, was one of 20 teachers who took part in a visit to the Civil Defence Academy (CDA), organized by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Learning journeys such as this give teachers the opportunity to experience something outside a school or classroom environment.

Teachers enthusiastically taking photos of a staged fire. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

The learning journey to the CDA, which Ms Leow was part of, started with an overview of the academy given by Lieutenant Faireezul of CDA’s Training Management division.

It was the beginning of an exciting programme lined up for the teachers.

CDA was set up in 1999 to conduct professional specialist training in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

The academy is organized into three main areas: the field training area, the administration and classroom area and the dormitory area.

Part of the tour and day’s programme involved physically demanding field training for the teachers.

They got to witness, firsthand, computer-controlled simulators that are designed to train SCDF personnel to respond effectively in various scenarios such as tank fires and confined space rescue.

The simulators teach fire fighters how to properly control and extinguish flames because without proper techniques, sudden explosions, coupled with high intensity flames and shockwave generators, will injure responders and casualties in the vicinity.

Fire spreading across the ceiling of the training tower. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

In addition to catching a glimpse of the simulators, the teachers also went into the Structural Training Tower, which has a replica of a Bar Top, karaoke lounge and Hi-Bay.

They learnt that fire-fighting is not a simple career that only requires physical fitness; a fire fighter needs mental alertness and high competence to perform his duties proficiently.

In fact, fire fighters have to come back to CDA twice every year to go through seven mandatory test stations, in order to pass the Breathing Apparatus (BA) test.

In the BA complex, fire fighters have to go through the donning station, the fitness station and lastly, the maze.

Equipped with a 300-litre tank, fire fighters have to don their full gear in less than 1 minute 15 seconds.

Following that, they have to take on the treadmill, climb what looks like an endless ladder, and work on impact machines and cycle.

During the routines, fire fighters have to meet specific target results (these vary with age) in order to pass or get an ‘A’ for the tests.

Once the fire fighters complete their stations, they have to clear the BA maze, inside a modifiable cage-like structure, within 12 minutes.

The four-level BA maze has a total length of 128 metres. PHOTO: Matthew Wong

Obstacles such as the cat ladder and slopes are incorporated in the maze to make it tougher for the officers to maneuver.

The intent is to test the fire fighters’ mental agility as they figure out different ways to crawl out of the long and winding maze fast.

Since the cage is a modular system, the layout of the maze can be reconfigured so that the fire fighters will not be able to predict and anticipate certain routes and hurdles.

These tests were demonstrated in the academy as part of the teachers’ learning tour.

The visit to CDA ended with a reception at the lounge where delicious food and drinks were served after a tiring yet thrilling tour around the academy.

“This excursion has been useful and yes, I respect fire fighters even more now. In fact, I’m thinking of approaching one of them to ask how I can bring the SCDF to the school or if it’s possible to bring the students here. I think we can do things like this for Civil Defence Day for the children to experience,” pointed out Ms Leow.

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