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Future-ready Lifesavers

Assistant Commissioner Daniel Seet of the Singapore Civil Defence Force shares his perspective on what it takes to be future-ready.
Assistant Commissioner (AC) Daniel Seet’s journey with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) began when he entered the Force as a Full-time National Serviceman (NSF). Today, as Director of the SCDF’s Operations Department, he’s responsible for driving the SCDF towards a tech-based future. 

Team goals: AC Seet’s experience on the ground have been essential in helping him chart new technological initiatives for the SCDF. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Tell us how your journey in the SCDF began.
After completing my Basic Military Training with the Singapore Armed Forces in 1999, I was posted to the SCDF to serve the rest of my National Service. I went through training at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA) where we learnt how to put on the breathing apparatus set, and to manage fire and rescue operations. 

We also underwent heat acclimatisation programmes and had to get used to our bunker gear becoming almost like a second skin. We wore this everywhere, even when we were simply marching around the CDA. It was really tough but the training prepared us well for our duties. 

I started thinking about signing on with the SCDF while I was an NSF ROTA Commander at Sembawang Fire Station. It was my Division Commander who advised me on how I could potentially carve out a career in the SCDF. Closer to my Operationally-Ready Date, I considered what I wanted to do after my NS and thought it would be exciting to explore my options with the SCDF. 

Tell us about your most indelible on-the-job experience. 
As a full-time SCDF officer, I started out at the Public Affairs Department (PAD). What excited me was the opportunity to put what I’d learnt in Mass Communications from my polytechnic and university studies into use as a Media Relations officer. 

During my five years with the PAD, I attended to major incidents such as the Nicoll Highway collapse of April 2004 and several major fires. I remember the Nicoll Highway collapse well as I was the Duty Media Officer then, and I hadn’t seen an incident of such a scale before. 

My colleagues and I worked round the clock to ensure that the media received timely and factually correct information for reporting. The challenge we faced at the incident site was that all the rescue operations were conducted underground. So we had to convey  pertinent details of the operations to the reporters, to aid their understanding of our progress. On the last day of our operations, we also facilitated a guided tour for a small group of cameramen beyond the security cordon and into the collapsed site, and that helped to put things into perspective. 

Despite the challenges, I grew to love the job. I’ve since served in a variety of operational postings – as Commander, Changi Fire Station; Head, Operations Branch, 4th SCDF Division Headquarters; Assistant Director, Operations Department, SCDF Headquarters; and Commander, 1st SCDF Division Headquarters. I also spent three years with the Joint Operations Group at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

SCDF officers have to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice. How has your family supported you in your career?
My wife is used to me “disappearing” and being recalled for incidents. There was one Valentine’s Day when we were at a mall while I was off-duty. I received a call about a major fire in Tuas and immediately left for the incident site. 

It was pretty tough for us as newlyweds (when we were still adjusting to married life) as my work required me to be away quite often. It was a big adjustment, especially when I got recalled late at night and didn’t return home until the operations were over, which can take many hours. Though she doesn’t express it, my wife does worry about me when I’m on duty. 

Sailing ahead in innovation: The Heavy Fire Vessel is specially designed and equipped to conduct operations involving hazardous materials. PHOTO: SCDF

How is the SCDF ensuring that it is future-ready to meet the challenges to come? 
We’ve transformed greatly over the past decades – I’ve seen teams becoming leaner but more efficient, newer vehicles being used and stations modernised. 

We recently put the SCDF’s new Heavy Fire Vessel on trial, which was years in the making and will be operationalised in early 2019. Named ‘Red Sailfish’, it’s currently the most powerful firefighting vessel in the world, and was designed and developed locally. It was a very proud moment for me, having seen how we started, what capabilities we have now, and what we’re working towards in the future. 

What are you excited about when it comes to the SCDF’s transformational journey? 
We’re now moving  towards trials involving robotics and artificial intelligence. We’re also exploring how new technologies with augmented capabilities can serve us operationally. This is an important starting point for the SCDF in order to find the best fit and balance, to operationalise new technologies that support our frontline officers. 

Given Singapore’s manpower constraints, we need to learn how to do more with the same number of officers. As Director, Operations, in the SCDF, it’s my challenge to figure out how we can leverage technologies whilst ensuring the effectiveness of our operations. 

Lifesaving tech: The 3R and Exoskeleton are examples of how the SCDF is pursuing technological innovation, the Exoskeleton makes firefighting operations less physically demanding by reducing the load carried by responders. PHOTOS: SCDF, Home Team News

Some of the new technologies that I’m really excited about are the Red Rhino Robot (3R) and the Exoskeleton. They embody our dream of enabling our responders to do more on the ground. The 3R is an autonomous firefighting robot that uses both compressed air foam and water while the Exoskeleton can help individual responders bear loads of up to 60kg or more. These are exciting developments which haven’t been operationalised yet, and now, it’s our job to make them happen. 

AC Daniel Seet, Director, Operations Department, SCDF. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

A Career in the Home Team
If you’re keen to learn more about careers with the Home Team, visit the MHA website.

Written by

Yuslina Aziz


31 July 2018

Science and Technology
Thought Leadership
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