SCDF adds pyrotechnics to bring realism to exercise

Blasts ripped through cars, sending fireballs into the sky, and no one would blame you for thinking it was a scene from a Michael Bay movie. But it wasn't.

The vehicles were blown up by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) last Wednesday as part of a trial for Exercise Northstar 9, in May.

To make the emergency exercise as realistic as possible, the SCDF went to great lengths to get the tone of the trial right.

Fuel and pyrotechnics were used, with mannequins thrown in as well, to make the impact of the blasts more horrific.

The trial took place at the SCDF Mandai Training Village and the rigging of both cars took about two hours.

Captain Kelvin Tan, 33, a senior instructor from the SCDF's Fire and Rescue Training Centre, said they had been planning for months.

"We want to make the scenarios in the exercise as impactful and as realistic as possible and that means having to use pyrotechnics," said the second in-charge for the team.

Capt Tan said that this year's exercise will be an improvement on the previous one.

"On a scale of one to 10, the explosions in the previous exercise were probably a three," he said.

"This year, it's going to be a seven."

EXPERTS

The SCDF has an eight-man team to handle the explosions and this year, it roped in three external pyrotechnic experts as well.

This is the first year they have engaged external pyrotechnic experts and Capt Tan said it was to make the scenarios more real.

"The more realistic the scenarios, the better prepared we are to handle threats," he said. "We always want to be prepared before a situation happens."

Details of the scenarios have not been finalised.

Major Subramaniam Sivanantham, 48, the head of the SCDF's Fire and Rescue Training Centre, is in charge of the team.

He said: "A total of 10 litres of petrol were used for the explosions. Our men are standing by to put out the fire and we have ensured that everything done is with safety in mind."

Maj Subramaniam, who was involved in different aspects of the exercise when it started in 1997, said they used only thunderflashes and fuel in the past.

"We get feedback and always try to make it better. The intensity of the explosion will be similar to what we have seen in this trial, but with more smoke," he said.

Capt Tan said the simulation will be similar to events that have happened before.

He said: "We take reference from real scenarios, making it more realistic. By doing so, we can be better prepared to tackle threats.

"It will be a meaningful effort by all agencies."

Exercise Northstar 9

The exercise will be held at the Singapore Sports Hub in early May.

Planning for this exercise began late last year.

The exercise will involve multiple Government agencies, including the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Police Force.

An SCDF spokesman said this was to test the readiness and coordination of national agencies in responding to major emergencies.

This will be the ninth Northstar exercise since it was started in 1997.

Previous exercises were held at Jurong Island (2011), Sentosa (2009) and various MRT stations (2006).

This article was first published on March 2, 2015. Get The New Paper for more stories.