We started the journey in the April edition of Asia Pacific Fire on the Hong Kong Fire Services Department (HKFSD), Fire and Ambulance Services Academy (the Academy), in this edition I will concentrate on the larger training props HKFSD now has at its disposal for the training of its people in a safe but realistic environment.
HKFSD has many challenges in protecting its community from danger. Potential risks include but are not limited to, high density living, underground transport, large shipping/ferry ports and one of the busiest airports in the world. The HKFSD and their construction partner Kiddie Fire Trainer (KFT) have planned and executed an emergency service “Disneyland” of training props to meet the training needs in as many risks as could be envisaged. The only way readers will get a full understanding of the diversity and extent of this complex is for me to take you on a tour, explaining the larger props whilst apologising to HKFSD for not being able to fit them all in to this article.
Integrated training ground
First on the tour is the integrated training ground consisting of three buildings, the largest being the ten-storey rescue training tower. It can be configured into a shopping centre, old style residential apartments, a factory, public housing and/or a commercial building. Every second storey has a different façade to add to the difficulty of high angle rescue and the interior for each floor can be configured to many different scenarios. The main use of this building is rescue and casualty handling. As we were leaving the building I observed a crew undertaking a rescue from the simulated lift.
The three-storey KFT burn building provides students with interior and exterior hot fire training, the live fires not only simulate the smoke and heat but an audio system give a realist sound track that assists in engulfing the students in a full sensory experience. Aerial ladders and platforms can also be used in a realistic way around the building. Again, this building can be configured into many scenarios from a residential building to a Karaoke bar.
In between these two buildings is a five-storey drill tower used for basic firefighting skills and rescue. Like the other buildings it can be changed for many scenarios.
These three buildings alone would be the pride of any fire/ambulance service but just a short walk away under the Skywalk (used for visitors and staff so as not to interfere with the training) is the marine section.
Aquatic Incident Training
The Aquatic Incident Training to the casual observer is half a ship rising out of the concrete with a moat around three sides, I went on tour and it’s not just for show. Inside, KFT simulators are set up in realistic gas fired situations from crew quarters, cargo bays, engine rooms and a bridge. As many of you know, ship firefighting is an extremely high risk activity. HKFSD personnel can train in realist ship board firefighting with the heat and smoke build-up but have the benefit of the KFT simulation safety systems to protect them from danger. The other nuance of this prop is that it can be converted from a cargo ship or cruise liner with all the inherent problems of managing the holiday makers and mass casualties as well as the fire.
Surrounding the ship is a moat which, with the movement of a few valves you have a rapidly flowing river for training in swift water rescue and by varying the flow you can use the moat for many other marine training exercises.
Aircraft Incident Training
Across from the ship is the aircraft training facility. HKFSD is well aware of the unique requirements of aircraft firefighting and rescue and this large prop is modelled on the modern planes of today including an Airbus A380 and Boeing B767. The interior of the fuselage has a number of configurations for dealing with mass rescue and extrication including seats that have been crushed during the incident. The simulator also includes a cargo hold that can be packed with luggage making finding the seat of the fire a very difficult exercise for students. The engines are set up to present several fire scenarios for students. One of the key points around this prop is that it can be used to practice, with ambulance, mobilization and communication procedures for mass casualties.
Public Transport Incidents
The Academy has its own underground rail station named after the road on which the academy is situated. Pak Shing Kok station has its own imaginary rail line and when you walk into the station and see the detail that has gone into making this realistic (I was expecting the train to pull out of the station) this makes you understand the detail that has gone into this complex. The train is an actual MTR train that has been fitted out inside to allow firefighting and rescue training to take place. One of the differences that I have seen in this prop is that it integrates the station complex with the rolling stock. The station complex includes escalators, stairs and the glass safety barriers between the station and the train, again allowing for incidents with large people movements that would occur underground. However, in Hong Kong rail is not the only risk and the academy has a simulated vehicle tunnels where vehicles can be placed for fire and/or rescue. The academy has access to large numbers of obsolete vehicles for training purposes. Another public transport system, which is used in a number of tourist areas in Hong Kong, are the gondolas or cable cars which handle thousands of people per day. The Academy has gone to the extent of providing one of the gondolas and a cable tower for firefighters to use their high angle rescue skills.
High Angle Rescue
HKFSD high angle rescue teams are a specialist group of fire fighters that attend many incidents around Hong Kong. I have discussed the gondola training prop but the training tower and most of the props in the complex have the ability for high angle rescue to take place. Simulating not only gondolas, but tower crane construction sites, bridge towers and scaffolding.
For a firefighter, there are many scenarios that can be found in fuel fires whether they are gaseous or liquid. KFT and HKFSD have looked at the best way to train, not only for the flammable medium but the circumstances in which the flammable medium is used. The result is a number of props to cover many of those scenarios, including a vehicle fire with gas or liquid fuels, 30,000 litre LPG tank, large liquid fuel storage tank and a fuel station. All these props, like the rest of the complex are controlled by well-trained instructors that can control the fire to the level where firefighters can get a feel of danger but are never put into danger.
Urban Search and Rescue
In the middle of the academy is what, to the untrained eye, looks like a large disaster zone. This is the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) complex and it is hard to explain any other way. This realistic prop has all the hallmarks of a disaster scene, reinforcing wire, rubble, large concrete slabs and the remnants of what would have been a fully functional office block before the building collapse. Crews practice their skills in shoring up, casualty handling, confined space rescue, high angle rescue and movement of large objects. One of the core skills that is practiced in this environment is finding victims using all types of listening and viewing devices. The area is also used to train the HKFSD sniffer dogs to find victims under the rubble. Because most USAR incidents continue over many days the teams have the added benefit of managing logistics, planning and handover to fresh crews in this complex.
And there is more
In the room I have available for this article I cannot cover everything this magnificant complex has to offer its students. There are still the Hazmat training ground, the burn house, compartment fire behaviour training, CBNR training and driver training to name a few. Part one in the last issue covered a lot of the soft training requirements like how to handle yourself in court and with the media. What I have not mentioned is that this complex is not just a practical training academy for hands on operations for the junior and middle ranks, but has features that can provide training from recruit level to the highest ranks.
I would like to thank the staff at the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy and Director LI Kin-yat Director of Fire Services for organising my visit to the Academy. I would particular like to thank (Angus) WONG Chun Yip, Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer (Headquarters) for his ongoing assistance.
For more information, go to www.hkfsd.gov.hk