Training system to help rookies see fires like veterans do

Major Hasan Kuddoos, Senior Instructing Officer of Marine Firefighting Specialist Branch explaining the Eye Tracking System.
Major Hasan Kuddoos, Senior Instructing Officer of Marine Firefighting Specialist Branch explaining the Eye Tracking System.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

When veteran firefighters enter the scene of a blaze, their seasoned eyes will quickly be able to assess what action needs to be taken. For rookies still learning the ropes, this is a skill that takes time to acquire.

A new Eye Tracking System (ETS), which can speed up this process, was among a host of innovations that enhance the training of Home Team officers showcased during the Home Team Academy's Workplan Seminar yesterday.

The ETS tracks the eye movements of trainees, via sensors beneath their computer screens, as they watch a video depicting a fire scene from a first-person's viewpoint. Based on the movements recorded, it determines what the trainees focused on.

This can be reviewed against the eye movements that experienced firefighters exhibit in the same exercise. While rookies may focus on the fire, veterans take note of available exits, casualties and other crucial factors.

Major Hasan Kuddoos, 35, senior instructing officer in the Marine Firefighting Specialist Branch, said: "When you ask trainees to look at something, you don't know exactly what they are looking at. But the ETS helps trainers not miss out on anything, so that they can guide trainees better and quicken their learning process."

ETS test stations will be part of the cognitive assessment and training facilities in ExCEL, or Emergency Responders' Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab, expected to be launched by the end of next year.

It will be jointly developed by Ministry of Home Affairs Science and Technology Group and Singapore Civil Defence Force, as a research and training facility.

ExCEL, to be based at the Civil Defence Academy, will include facilities for strength and conditioning training that have been augmented with technology. For example, treadmills set up for fitness training will be enclosed in a dome-like structure that simulation scenarios can be projected onto. The set-up will also have sensors that can analyse things like running form.


Other highlights of the seminar include new training methods that will harness various reality technologies. Emergency Medical Services will use mixed reality simulations, which are experienced through headsets that overlay virtual objects onto real-life surroundings, during training starting next year.

Such technology enables different and more complex training scenarios to be created with ease.

The Home Team School of Criminal Investigation plans to use voice-controlled smart glasses to train investigators. Not only do these allow users to see digital object overlays, they also allow instructors to communicate with trainees and conduct training remotely.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Prison Service is looking to introduce virtual reality (VR) in scenario-based training later this year. Through a VR headset, trainees are immersed in a virtual setting and tasked to tackle situations such as fights. Their reactions are recorded so that instructors can assess their responses.

Using VR in scenario-based training saves time and resources by doing away with the need for prison trainers to reenact the same scenario for every trainee. In the simulation, there are no wrong or right options as it is more important how officers justify their responses.

Deputy Superintendent (2) Mohamed Nizaar Md Ibrahim, 42, Deputy Commander of Singapore Prison Training Institute, said: "We want to embed principles rather than black and white protocol, so that we train officers who think."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Training system to help rookies see fires like veterans do'. Print Edition | Subscribe