Tuesday, December 4, 2007

NCDCC Officer Basic Course

I have the very good fortune of being given the job of helping another teacher start up a new student uniformed group in our school called the National Civil Defense Cadet Corps. Just like the NCC is associated with the army, the NPCC with the police, the NCDCC is affiliated to the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the home affairs agency in charge of firefighters, paramedics and the urban search and rescue folks. The three-week OBC course ended last Friday. It was too fun...

First week highlights: 1) Tying knots and lashes; the basic scouts stuff. The thing about knots is that I'm so bad at it because I'm not good at the spatial aspects of it. I can copy the steps pretty well but if I use a rope of a different colour than the one I use to practise, I tend to get lost. The other disturbing thing is that I have no idea how knots work! Why do they only work when all the steps are done exactly? My preliminary findings are that knots work using friction, and depending on the way the knots go it and snake out, the friction of one part of the knot is able to assist and reinforce another part of the loop. I'll try to figure it out eventually.

2) Foot drills. Although I was a logistics sergeant in the military, I haven't gone back for follow up training and have mostly forgotten the commands. Foot drills in Singapore are conducted in Malay because it is our national language. I do not know Malay so this online dictionary is quite useful for me to check out individual words of drill commands.

3) Firefighting at The Funace, visits to Central Fire Station and HQ SCDF. The SCDF has a training school called the Civil Defence Academy and there's a fire fighting facility called The Funace (the white building below). This building can break out into fire on command, and on each level a different scenario is simulated, such as apartments, offices, karaoke...

Here's a 4s clip (taken by our course organisers) of the karaoke lounge we went to. I think this simulates a flashover, though I'm not sure. We were told to squat because of the immense heat. I stood up to feel the 300 degrees flames, but went down quickly. The heat was intense and unrelenting. It was also very beautiful. Real firefighters have to wear their protective suits and train here for around 30 minutes. I can't imagine how they can do it. Here's a clip of the spreading fire. In the last second of the clip, I can be seen almost standing at the top left corner, contrary to others' advice... I wanted to feel the heat!

We visited the Central Fire Station, this particular one is the 'classic' fire stationjust across the street from Funan Centre. The Commander there told us that all fire stations in Singapore except the one at Jurong Island are open to the public every Saturday morning. They host lots of foreigners with their kids in tow, but unfortunately locals don't seem to know this, so he asked us to help publicise this open house. Here's a video clip of firemen sliding down the pole.

We also visited the HQ SCDF bunkered control room where emergency 995 calls are being directed to. The 'operators' seem very patient and nice, especially when lots of calls are irrelevant calls, intentional or otherwise. For non-emergencies, please call 1777.

2nd week highlights: 1) 3-day Adventure Training Camp at Camp Resilience, Pulau Ubin. One thing about going camping nowadays is how much well maintained the facilities were compared to say 15 years ago. We had keyaking on the first day, but the really fun stuff was the second day when we had to tacket the low and high ropes obstacle course. This thing about being afraid of heights is quite new to me because I never knew I had a problem with heights until a couple of years ago at Juneau, Alaska where I was walking along this road in the small town and came upon a bridge that spanned a valley with the most magnificent river gushing beneath it and huge mountains on the other side, and my knees suddenly gave away involuntarily and I wasn't able to cross the bridge. Since then, I've been interested in how this 'heights' thing works and whether I can circumvent my problem. And I more or less nailed it by reasoning how the height per se does not make the activities any more difficult. The Leap of Honour and Pamper Pole was great; I managed to jump and hold on to the trapeze bar. The trick is to start doing a pull-up the moment the hands have grabbed the bar.

2) Back at the CDA, we attended a CPR course. Now I'd done the course conducted by the Red Cross. The interesting thing about the one at CDA is that their Laerdal manikins come with a device that measures pumping rate and ventilation volume and speed. We had to repeat the procedure until we got everything right to pass the evaluation test. What this does is that fatigue and emotional stress is more sufficiently simulated, resulting in more realistic trauma on the part of the rescuer.

3rd week highlights: Breathing Apparatus maze! This was super fun (and only because we were not rescuing real people.) We had to don a mask, plus a scuba diving tank lookalike.

Thereafter, we had to go into this 'enclosed space' maze below (source); the operators can simulate the maze to be filled with smoke, raise the temperature, or create pitch black conditions.

The other highlight this week was exposure to CS tear gas! Here we were donning chemical agent suits and then led to a room where CS gas was released. The protective suits worked, and then we had to remove our masks and that's when the choking started. It was a awful burning sensation and we all had to be led out because everyone was crying and became quite disoriented. Another traumatic experience... but it was just too fun...

So that's about it. There's a firefighting course later next year; hopefully I'll have time to go for it then... ;p

No comments: