When students are asked what they want to be when they grow up, the brave ones usually respond and say that they would like to become firefighters.  This is because they are our modern-day heroes, risking their lives to save others during fires.

Today, we took a peek into the lives of lifesavers at COSEM’s training grounds!

What does COSEM do?

The Co-operative of SCDF Employees Ltd (COSEM) is a co-operative set up to provide employment opportunities for retired uniformed personnel. COSEM provides a range of specialised consultancy and training on civil defence, fire safety, and rescue as well as related products and services. It also undertakes decontamination work when there are chemical spillages, as well as supply of fire safety equipment among other things.

Learning CPR

At COSEM, students learnt life-saving skills like how to perform Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). They had the opportunity to practise CPR on mannequins!

Students were taught simple steps in responding to an emergency situation that calls for CPR before an emergency medical team arrives.

After that, they had a go in practising CPR under the guidance of the instructors.

Everybody loves Firefighting

Here, students got to put on a firefighter’s gear. And that’s not something you can wear it every day!

A firefighter helped a student to wear the uniform.

Helmet on and ready to go!

It was a bit of a challenge to put on multiple pieces of the bulky gear fast. Of course, it’s no sweat when you know these garments are meant to protect firefighters as much as possible when they battle the blaze.

And do you know that in an emergency, firefighters need to get completely dressed and be ready to go in one minute! That’s only possible after they have completed all their training.

Different Types of Fire Extinguishers (Really?! I thought there was only one – water?)

It was eye-opening for us to see the different types of fire extinguishers! All along we thought there was only one type.

The instructors were helpful and gave us an overview of the various types of fire extinguishers with each one having specific fire classes that they are suitable for use on like Water, dry powder and carbon dioxide fire extinguishers. These types have specific uses and are colour-coded on the fire extinguisher, as you can see in the pictures below.

The instructors also shared that red-colour fire extinguishers are the latest, complying with the latest regulations. The blue-colour fire extinguishers would be phased out soon as they are outdated.

Also, do remember to your fire extinguisher at home hasn’t expired!

The Fire Extinguisher Simulator

The highlight of the learning journey was the fire extinguisher simulator, where a set-up kitchen could be set on fire under controlled conditions for training purposes.

The instructor first shared the three stages of fire:

1) Incipient stage, the beginning of a fire.

2) Smouldering stage, the intermediate stage of a fire.

3) Flame stage, the final stage with a fully developed flame.

The instructors also explained that kitchen fires are one of the most common sources of fires in Singapore.

Do you know that cooking oil can catch fire under four minutes if left unattended?

Now you should definitely not leave your stove unattended, not even to just text your friend.

Otherwise, this might happen.

This was what some of us experienced.

A breathtaking, literally, display of a fire in all its might.

Thankfully, under controlled conditions in the fire extinguisher simulator.


In all, we learnt a life-saving skill i.e. CPR, listened to the experiences of firefighters, had a glimpse into a day of their work, and learnt useful tips of what to do in an emergency.

That’s how you have a lit learning journey. Literally.

This article was brought to you by Waffen Matthew Wee, who interned in the Campus & Youth Department, SNCF during his semester break. He is into his 2nd year of study in the National University of Singapore. He is in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He’s intrigued by the fact that co-operatives pursue their social mission while maintaining economic viability. He wishes to learn more about how they balance that through their business model.