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Tapping technology to fight fires

Midway through his Bachelor of Science (Life Science) course in the National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2010 to 2014, undergraduate Mui Chin Nam realised that although he loved what he was studying, he did not want a desk-bound research job after graduation.

Sourcing around, he found out that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) offered scholarships for careers in uniformed services.

“The ability to make a real difference to society coupled with the exciting prospects of being a front-line firefighter motivated me to sign up for the Local Merit Scholarship with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF),” he recalls.

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With the scholarship and his sights set on his future career, he did his Final Year Project (FYP) on heat acclimatisation in SCDF firefighters.

“This sparked my interest in the field of heat acclimatisation, prevention of heat injuries and maximisation of performance, especially in firefighting.

“The interest developed and knowledge gleaned during the FYP stayed with me till today, and I am able to apply it in my current work,” says Captain (CPT) Mui, 30, now a Staff Officer (Operations Projects, Operations Department) in SCDF.

Besides supporting his studies, the scholarship also provided him with opportunities to take on additional responsibilities both within and beyond his job scope.

After graduating from NUS, he went through SCDF’s Rota Commander Course before he was posted to Tampines Fire Station as a Rota Commander.

He was then posted to SCDF HQ as Staff Officer (Improvised Explosive Devices Disposal Threat, Hazardous Materials Department).

“I picked up skills in dealing with Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive (CBRE) threats and was able to apply what I learnt in school to my work,” he recalls.

In his current role, CPT Mui is in charge of changing and enhancing the way SCDF operates through the use of technology.

“SCDF firmly believes that technology can be a force multiplier in enhancing our operations.

“In my job, I need to be on the constant lookout for technological advancements and how they can be applied to SCDF’s roles and functions.

“A project that I am working on is the development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in SCDF. We envision that UAVs are able to replace human manpower in the performance of functions such as surveillance and fire-fighting,” he says.

People skills matter too
However, he learns that it is also important to not just introduce new technologies to the users, but also gain their acceptance.

“Although the ultimate intention is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, we must also be aware that the front-liners may have their reservations or face limitations in accepting the new technologies.

“Hence, communication with the front-line officers is important to ensure that they understand the rationale behind the introduction of the new equipment,” he explains.

To those who are considering a similar scholarship, he advises: “Having an interest in what you do is vital if you want to enjoy your work and do well.
Be open-minded and explore the different opportunities that are out there.

“If possible, try to go for internships for the opportunities that really interest you, so you can learn more about the organisations, their values, cultures and the way they work.”