Singapore Civil Defence Force
Feature | National & Home Defence

Calm, Commanding
and in Control

Singapore Civil Defence Force
With its ethos of Courage and Control, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is dedicated to its mission to protect and save lives and property for a safe and secure Singapore. To accomplish its mission, the SCDF believes in building up its personnel to the fullest. Commander Tuas Fire Station MAJ Zhou Yan Sheng tells us just how fulfilling a career in the SCDF can be.

W ith his down-to-earth demeanour and warm, sincere smile, MAJ Zhou Yan Sheng is the sort of easygoing character you could chat all day with.

But beneath his affable exterior lies a man with a steely sense of command and calm fortitude, qualities that have helped MAJ Zhou overcome numerous challenges in his career with the SCDF, most recently in his position as Commander Tuas Fire Station, a position he took up in 2013.

And barely two weeks after taking over the Tuas Fire Station hot-seat, MAJ Zhou found himself thrust straight into a fire that involved four tugboats at a shipyard at Jalan Samulun near Jurong.

MAJ Zhou and his team, along with personnel from the SCDF Marine Command, battled for over six hours to bring the ferocious blaze under control.

Extensive and Unparalleled Exposure

MAJ Zhou credits the swift resolution of this crisis to the training provided by SCDF and the excellent teamwork and coordination between the marine and land-based fire fighting and rescue teams. MAJ Zhou’s extensive experience and coordination skills gleaned from his two-year stint as a Senior Staff Officer with SCDF’s Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Department was also useful.

To cite an example, MAJ Zhou describes how every vehicle licensed to transport hazardous cargo is fitted with a Global Positioning System tracking device to monitor its movements. As the vehicles are constantly on the move, he states that having a real-time update of the vehicles’ exact locations is invaluable in determining the appropriate course of action if a HAZMAT incident should occur.

MAJ Zhou Yan Sheng

MAJ Zhou Yan Sheng
SAF Merit Scholar

Commander, Tuas Fire Station

“I get a great sense of gratification whenever I see people’s expressions of hope and gratefulness to what we do.”

This also requires working closely with other agencies such as the Singapore Police Force, National Environment Agency and Singapore Customs, to name but a few.

MAJ Zhou described this cross-agency work as challenging and intellectually stimulating, adding, “I’ve gained unique insights into the different concerns of each organisation in Singapore and the considerable work we do behind the scenes to keep Singapore safe and secure.”

As an SCDF Local Merit Scholar, MAJ Zhou has benefitted from numerous overseas learning opportunities. After joining the SCDF, he was privileged to attend the International Conference on Disaster Management in Japan in September 2010, a study trip to the UK and the Netherlands in May 2012. He also participated in the 10th Asian Crisis Management Conference in Bangkok in June 2012.

During these trips, MAJ Zhou learnt that SCDF was highly regarded for its good fire safety track record and its ability to respond to a wide range of civil disasters and complex incidents, both locally and internationally.

All-Rounded Industry Insight

Fast-forward to today, and MAJ Zhou is able to apply his extensive learning and on-the-job experience in his role as Commander Tuas Fire Station. His knowledge and training in HAZMAT is especially relevant considering the many heavy industries dealing with industrial chemicals which fall under the jurisdiction of Tuas Fire Station.

MAJ Zhou adds that his Mechanical Engineering degree also provides him with the technical knowledge and expertise in being able to converse with industry partners on a familial level. He adds, “My peers and I in the SCDF often share our case experiences with one another, which is a tremendous help.”

Another area of expertise MAJ Zhou can draw upon is from his previous tour of duty as part of the team conducting Quantitative Risk Assessments (QRA), where he conferred with industrial, petrochemical and biomedical companies to work together in evaluating their organisation safety risk profiles.

MAJ Zhou explains, “We have to balance our responsibility for the public’s safety against the companies’ business objectives, and ensure that fire-safety standards are met in a manner that is acceptable to all parties.

“It is important to forge a good working relationship with these industry experts. At the end of the day, the satisfaction from reaching a common ground with these organisations is immeasurable.”

MAJ Zhou continues with a wry smile, “I’ve been able to see how large multi-national corporations (MNCs) like Shell, Exxon and SembCorp have developed their safety protocols over the years,” adding that this opportunity had afforded him plenty of industry insight.

The Only Way Forward is Up

A career in the SCDF not only affords incredible opportunities, but is also suitable for people who prefer an action-oriented career compared to a desk-bound job. It is a great career choice for people who are looking to help others through their daily work and it provides an opportunity for one to interact with people from all walks of life.

MAJ Zhou says, “As a Commander of a Fire Station, I take charge of close to 150 operational personnel and I am on call 24 hours a day to respond to any emergency. If there is an incident that’s deemed to be big enough, I’ll have to respond immediately to the scene. I may be home or outside but I have to be on standby for 24 hours. I get a huge adrenaline rush each time I am activated to respond to an emergency call together with my team. I hope to continue in it for a good while. Further down the road, perhaps I hope to be involved in the training of SCDF personnel, helping to groom the next batch of officers, or take up the mantle of engaging the community in our emergency preparedness efforts.”

MAJ Zhou also reckons that, at the end of the day, what really keeps him motivated in his job is something that goes beyond mere dollars and cents. He explains, “What is most satisfying in being part of the Life Saving Force is being able to make a difference in people’s lives. I get a great sense of gratification whenever I see people’s expressions of hope and gratefulness to what we do. I truly enjoy going out to be the community’s assistance in their times of need.”