Simulation of security incidents helps Prison and ICA officers train for real events

The Command and Control Training Simulation System at the old Woodlands Checkpoint has been used to train seasoned immigration officers since March 2019. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Every few months or so, fights break out between prisoners in "Changi Prison" and inmates collapse to the ground while exercising in the prison yard.

Or at least that is what happens in the virtual prison, in which new officers are trained to respond to such incidents.

The Singapore Prison Service (SPS) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) demonstrated two of their virtual reality (VR) simulation training sessions this week.

At the Home Team Academy in Choa Chu Kang, trainee prison officers must now go through a VR scenario-based training as part of their Prison Officer Course.

Officers wear VR headsets and sensors on their feet as they interact with "prisoners" in a virtual prison modelled after the real Changi Prison. They are put through their paces and have to manage situations like a fight in the prison yard or a medical emergency.

In one example played out for the media, a virtual prisoner tells the officer that he can help get the officer into Zouk, a popular nightclub. The officer then has to respond appropriately, which is to warn the inmate that he could be committing a corruption offence.

Assistant Superintendent of Prisons Ivan Sum, a senior trainer with the SPS' training institute, said officers are to react as they would in a real situation.

For example, when a "prisoner" collapses to the ground, the officer has to mimic performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

They are also encouraged to practise projecting their voices to instil order among the "inmates", said ASP Sum.

The VR system also helps familiarise trainee officers with the prison environment, he added.

"With just a click of a button, we can get them to practise the scenarios again and again until they are confident, so they can do the right thing when they are on the ground," said ASP Sum.

When a "prisoner" collapses to the ground, the officer has to mimic performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Trials for the VR system began in February last year, and SPS has since implemented it in its training for two batches of trainees.

Over at the old Woodlands Checkpoint, the Command and Control Training Simulation System has been used to train seasoned immigration officers since March 2019.

Different simulated scenarios such as an attack by gunmen or a fire incident are played out on large computer screens, and officers must coordinate their responses with one another.

Just as in real life, officers have a "control room" where they oversee a simulated Woodlands Checkpoint.

When incidents occur, the officers must then communicate this to their ground officers, who are based in a different room and view a simulated first-person perspective of the Woodlands facility on computer screens.

These ground officers view the simulation through individual computers which are configured to mimic the limited view that an officer at the scene might have.

Ground officers then practise moving through the virtual checkpoint with a click of their mouse, and neutralise the virtual threats.

ICA Deputy Superintendent Au Mei Xian said the system helps them bypass resource constraints, as it allows them to train more officers without having to affect daily operations at the checkpoint.

First Response Team Officer Sergeant 2 Anas Mohamed said another benefit is that the system allows them to practise on many different situations.

The system has 45 different scenarios to practise on, including incidents that have yet to occur here, like an attack by a suicide bomber.

Said Sgt 2 Anas: "We wouldn't be able to personally experience every type of incident, but we have to be prepared for all."

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