As our operating environment continues to evolve, firefighting, rescue and pre-hospital emergency care have become more challenging and complex. By embarking on a bold transformation of its training facilities, the Civil Defence Academy (CDA) of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) strives to optimize the performance of emergency responders, sharpening their operational edge on the front line.
The Civil Defence Academy (CDA) was opened in 1999 as the premier training institution of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). It has since established itself as the focal point for training excellence and thought leadership in emergency response, public safety and disaster management. Featuring an extensive array of training simulators, CDA has provided realistic training in firefighting, rescue, hazardous materials (HazMat), emergency medical services (EMS) and fire safety. Apart from catering to SCDF’s ecosystem of responders, industry and community partners, the training is also extended to the international fraternity of emergency response and disaster management.
Transforming the landscape of training and learning
In an ever-changing operating environment, SCDF stays ahead of the curve by transforming its operational capabilities and investing heavily in its officers. The redevelopment of CDA synthesizes physical infrastructure and technology, laying the foundation for training and learning through research and innovation. New training methodologies supported by evidence-based studies usher in a next-generation training experience for SCDF officers throughout their service, while staying true to CDA’s enduring philosophy: ‘Train as we Operate’.
Redevelopment of CDA
Three of SCDF’s training facilities at the Home Team Tactical Training Centre (HTTC) were completed in 2015. The Leaning Tower – tilted at a 17-degree angle – provides a challenging setting for Urban Search and Rescue; The Diamond and ORCA are detailed replicas of a petrochemical plant and a commercial vessel. Together, these 3 facilities present new possibilities for advanced specialist training in Urban Search and Rescue, HazMat mitigation and Marine firefighting, respectively. These upgrades were the first steps of CDA’s extensive redevelopment plans.
Phase 1 of CDA’s redevelopment will be completed by the first half of 2021. The following facilities will be operationalized for SCDF trainees to experience a new paradigm of data-driven and tech-enabled training:
Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning & Enhancement Lab (ExCEL)
To optimize human potential and operational performance, the Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning & Enhancement Lab (ExCEL) institutionalizes an evidence-based approach towards improving the performance of SCDF responders. Through scientific research, testing and assessment, ExCEL enhances training regimes, nutrition, physical conditioning and rehabilitation of responders. ExCEL houses five key facilities, each harnessing different technologies to augment responder performance. The full potential of ExCEL is envisioned to be realized through collaborative research and innovation in human performance in the years to come.
1. Environmental Chamber
Ambient temperature, humidity, wind speed and sunlight are calibrated in the environmental chamber to simulate various weather conditions, acclimatizing responders to thermal stress in a realistic yet controlled environment. This helps responders to prepare for overseas deployments with unfamiliar and inhospitable weather conditions. It also allows for the testing and evaluation of newly developed protective gears under various weather conditions.
2. Strength & Conditioning and Rehabilitation Virtual Environment (STRiVE)
With a 360-degree HD dome built around a six degrees-of-freedom motion platform, STRiVE is one of only seven such simulators globally and the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. STRiVE combines physical training on the motion platform and cognitive training from the HD dome into a gamified training experience. Through longitudinal collection and analysis of data, the strength, conditioning and situational awareness of trainees are continually improved, as they adapt to operations of greater challenge and complexity. Factors such as an individual’s gait, posture and balance are also analysed to provide early intervention before injuries can happen.
3. Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Test (BAPT) facility
The BAPT facility is designed to test the fitness of responders working with breathing apparatus. A joint study with researchers from the Republic Polytechnic in Singapore was commissioned to formulate the new six-station BAPT, which simulates actual actions on the fireground closely. Situational awareness and physical performance of responders are evaluated through cognitive assessments and automatically triggered obstacles. Vital signs of trainees are monitored, so that timely medical intervention can be given to those who display anomalous cardiac stress.
4. Fitness Evaluation Lab
The Fitness Evaluation Lab will be equipped with a body composition analyser, a dynamometer system and metabolic measurement systems. These systems holistically evaluate the fitness level of responders, customizing programmes based on their physiological profiles, for optimal training outcomes. SCDF can also test the speed, agility and protection for its responders in various firefighting gear, through timed tests in the lab. This helps SCDF to select the best protective gear for its responders.
5. Cognitive Lab
The Cognitive Lab utilizes advanced optical imaging and sensor systems, such as Functional Near-infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and the Eye Tracking System (ETS) to enhance cognitive and behavioural performance of responders. Visual movement and electrical brain activity are analysed to give insights into cognitive and behavioural performance. Responders exhibiting desirable cognitive profiles can be identified for specialized vocations with specific cognitive demands. During incidents, less experienced officers may be prone to distractions by other stimuli, leading to incomplete assessment of the operational environment. The ETS can analyse the visual focus of officers and train them to focus on what matters most.
Audio-Visual cameras are used to study the behavioural patterns of responders in crisis situations. SCDF’s Emergency Behavioural Sciences and Care (EBSC) Unit will work with ExCEL to provide early intervention to personnel who may suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and ensure that front-line leaders have the soft skills to manage their responders during crisis situations.
Digital Learning Lab (DLL)
Equipped with cutting-edge extended and mixed-reality systems, the Digital Learning Lab (DLL) trains responders in realistic virtual environments. The Virtual Reality Fire Investigation Simulator, Advanced Command Training System II (ACTS2) and Emergency Response Driving Simulator challenges responders with customizable scenarios and ‘injects’ which cannot be easily replicated in real life. This prepares responders for unforeseen circumstances during operations. Patterns in responses can also be analysed, with ready training interventions to address specific shortcomings.
CDA Fire Station
Housing emergency vehicles, smart classroom facilities and a watchroom, the CDA Fire Station emulates operational fire stations in SCDF. It immerses trainees in a realistic operational setting and provides a bona fide experience of responding to emergency incidents. The station also serves as a testbed for new operational technology developed by SCDF. The data and feedback gathered from trainees will help to iterate new technologies and operational procedures prior to implementation.
Roadmap for the further Transformation of CDA
Beyond the first phase, other training and research facilities will be gradually established in CDA. The following facilities will be the highlights when CDA’s ambitious redevelopment plans are completed in mid-2023.
National EMS Training Centre (NETC)
The National Emergency Medical Services Training Centre (NETC) consolidates training in pre-hospital emergency care across the ecosystem of emergency medical response (e.g. paramedics). Extended reality technologies will enhance realism across the EMS cycle, from the activation of ambulances to the treatment and conveyance of patients.
The fusion of commercial and residential structures with transport nodes into Mixed-Use Premises (MUP) poses significant challenges to emergency responders. Comprising the MUP retail mall, the Enterprise and a transport hub, the MUP training facility familiarizes responders with the emergency response scenarios in a complex urban environment.
Fire Research Centre
The Fire Research Centre is a purpose-built facility dedicated to research in fire safety and fire investigation. It will allow SCDF to assess the fire safety risk of building materials, validate its existing Fire Code and drive innovation in construction and the Built Environment.
Redeveloping a landmark training facility – the Furnace
Finally, the landmark nine-storey Furnace structure will be retrofitted to simulate the latest residential and commercial layouts. SCDF trainees will be trained for a multitude of scenarios such as fires in hotels, dormitories, offices and clandestine laboratories. The safety features within the Furnace will allow for real-time monitoring of the trainees’ safety and performance, aiding in the post-training review.
Forming partnerships to meet tomorrow’s challenges
Apart from the changes to the CDA’s physical landscape, the redevelopment also ushers in new methods of training delivery, maximizing the potential of responders by leveraging on research, data and science.
Beyond meeting the evolving training needs for emergency response and public safety, the next-generation training infrastructure also provides a platform for joint scientific research and knowledge creation. CDA keenly welcomes partnerships with other emergency response agencies, institutes of higher learning and like-minded partners to continually improve the safety and performance of emergency responders. The world-leading facilities such as ExCEL, the Digital Learning Lab and the Fire Research Centre offer boundless opportunities to co-create the future of training and learning for emergency response and public safety.
Despite the challenges in today’s operating environment, SCDF will remain committed to transforming the training landscape, staying ahead of the times to be a world-leading Life Saving Force.
For more information, go to www.scdf.gov.sg