Building the firefighting force of the future

July 2023

By Christopher Teo

 

Back to Changi Journeys

 

Changi Journeys reveals the latest on the frontlines of airport firefighting in an exclusive interview with Changi Airport’s new Chief of Airport Emergency Service Puar Teck Jin.

 

In April 2023, Mr Puar Teck Jin assumed the mantle of leadership of Changi Airport Group’s Airport Emergency Service (AES) as Chief, AES. Speaking exclusively to Changi Journeys, Chief Puar shares his vision for AES and how he aims to steer the team onwards in its mission. 

 

Chief Puar addressing the AES team

 

Chief Puar has amassed close to 20 years of experience with AES across a 40-year firefighting career. He first joined the team (under the Department of Civil Aviation) back in 1984, before expanding his knowledge and experience with a stint in the private sector in 1993, and thereafter coming “home” to AES in 2014. Over the years, he’s seen the force undergo significant advancements that have enabled it to keep pace with international firefighting standards.

These enhancements in firefighting techniques, capabilities and knowledge have revolutionised Changi’s airport emergency services. These include advancements in firefighting equipment and vehicles that enable faster and safer responses, as well as radically new technologies to support operations, such as remotely controlled robots to convey casualties safely from an incident and drones to identify hotspots via thermal infrared capabilities.

 

Remotely controlled casualty conveyance robots allow firefighters to conserve their physical strength for more critical tasks like rescue within hot fire zones.

 

It's not just the hardware that has been upgraded – AES continually upskills its firefighters through both local and international training. Chief Puar shares the example of a stint with another Asian fire agency on water rescue training, to deepen AES’s proficiencies in complex water rescue scenarios.  He says, “Such training not only equips our firefighters with the necessary skills for their work but also ensures their overall success in their professional and personal capacities.” 

Firefighters from the AES Sea Rescue Base are trained to respond to any incidents that may occur over the sea

 

This embrace of continual innovation, upgrading and upskilling is key to Chief Puar’s vision for AES, which is to be at the forefront of aircraft and structural firefighting through upholding the highest standards of operational performance and safety.

Chief Puar is cognisant that achieving this vision requires learning from past experiences, which is why he says, “It is essential for our more experienced firefighters to pass on their valuable knowledge to the new generation.” To that end, incident managers from past real-life emergencies regularly conduct sessions with other firefighters to share about the lessons learnt from these incidents.    

To enable newer staff to share valuable insights they might have, Chief Puar also actively seeks opportunities to involve crew members, regardless of rank, in decision-making processes, encouraging them to share their input and ideas. Such initiatives help foster a culture of engagement and innovation within AES, and inculcate in the firefighters a sense of ownership and pride in their work, ultimately leading to improved performance and outcomes.

AES firefighters are among the staff who make magic in CAG, and are featured in its new employer brand video

 

Since assuming command of AES, Chief Puar has not only been focused on building AES’s internal capabilities, but also strengthening its relationships with other stakeholders, like the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Singapore Police Force and the Ministry of Defence. He points out that “AES cannot work in a silo. Emergency response is only effective when there is full support and commitment from mutual aid agencies and airport stakeholders.”

In his 40 years of experience, Chief Puar cites the SQ368 incident in June 2016 as his most memorable example of when the AES team’s skills were put to the test – the Milan-bound aircraft was forced to return to Changi after a fire developed in the starboard engine shortly after take-off. AES responded swiftly, safely extinguishing the fire and facilitating the safe disembarkation of all passengers and crew onboard.  

He expresses his hope that AES will continue to rise to such challenges, “AES will actively explore and generate new and innovative ideas to enhance our capabilities, so that we can remain a leading force in emergency response, and meet the ever-changing demands of our industry.”

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