The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is scaling new heights - literally - in its firefighting capability, with a platform ladder that can be deployed for operations in buildings as high as 20 storeys.
This is almost double the maximum height that SCDF's existing firefighting equipment can reach.
And it could go even higher, with plans for a similar equipment that is able to extend to 90m.
The new Combined Platform Ladder 60m was unveiled yesterday at the SCDF's annual workplan seminar, which also saw the introduction of equipment such as a system to fight oil tank fires and jet skis for use in shallow water rescue operations.
An SCDF spokesman said the new platform ladder with the moniker CPL60 will enhance aerial firefighting and rescue capabilities and provide SCDF ground commanders with more tactical options.
"Given Singapore's high-rise terrain, the addition of this latest appliance is important," he told the media during a preview of the new equipment recently.
Before the two CPL60s that SCDF currently has for islandwide emergency response were added, options for aerial appliances were the Combined Platform Ladder 34m (CPL34) and Aerial Ladder 56m (AL56). CPL34 has functions similar to CPL60 but can extend to only a maximum of 34m.
AL56 can extend to a maximum of 56m and is designed primarily for aerial rescue operations, such as evacuating individuals trapped in high-rise units.
Ready for use about two months ago though not yet deployed, the CPL60 is equipped with a water monitor capable of discharging at a rate of 3,800 litres per minute.
Given Singapore's high-rise terrain, the addition of this latest appliance is important.
AN SCDF SPOKESMAN, on the new 60m ladder.
It is also fitted with a rescue cage that can hold up to 500kg.
Many factors are considered when CPL60 is put to use.
Before the ladder is even extended, whether the ground beneath the fire engine is level or strong enough to withstand its weight must be taken into account.
Factors such as the angle at which the ladder is extending, the amount of weight carried in the cage and also the wind strength are critical in determining the maximum height the ladder can safely reach.
The computer system of the rescue cage's control station guides the operating SCDF officer in how he should extend the ladder, in accordance with such factors.
During the preview, the SCDF allowed the media to be atop a fully-extended CPL60.
While the ladder usually takes about a minute to extend fully, when there are no surrounding obstructions, the operating officer extended it slower in consideration of the media personnel on board.
The ascent was a steady one, with the rescue cage hardly shaking even as its passengers walked around.
SCDF has plans for a High Level Articulated Appliance that can extend up to 90m. But a spokesman said its goal is not for its capabilities to simply chase the heights of growing high-rise buildings.
He added that though the use of equipment such as CPL60 may be an effective option for firefighting and rescue in high-rise building fires, fires are primarily fought from the building interior.
In order to facilitate evacuation and internal firefighting, high-rise buildings are mandated to have fire safety provisions such as fireman lifts, sprinklers, exit staircases and smoke stop lobbies.