Chen Yong Kai was originally inspired to join the SCDF by his parents, both dedicated public servants. He explains that it was the pride they had towards serving the community which led him to a career with the SCDF. The sustained meaning and noble work he experiences in his everyday work is what keeps him going as Commander at Bukit Batok Fire Station.
Never a Dull Day Serving Others
Yong Kai and his team shoulder the mammoth and fast-paced responsibility of providing round-the-clock assistance to those in distress. He recalls a particularly thrilling mission, “We responded to a condominium unit fire where my team and I rescued seven people trapped in the burning unit!” It has been the many kind words of encouragement and gratitude Yong Kai receives from members of the public that spur him to overcome challenges and continue to serve protect the public.
He elaborates on why his work with the SCDF is more so a calling than a regular job, “As part of The Life Saving Force, I derive strong satisfaction knowing that the work, be it frontline response, command and control, or leading a project to develop SCDF’s future operational capability, contributes to our SCDF mission of protecting and saving lives and property for a safe and secure Singapore.”
Leading from the Front
Yong Kai’s active role in fighting fires and protecting the community was not in line with his friends’ initial perception of a Commander’s duties. “Many of my friends have the misconception that commanders fight fires by giving commands from outside the fire scene,” he recalls. They have been pleasantly surprised to learn that Yong Kai leads his team from the frontline, donning full protective gear and breathing apparatus to lead his team into live fire scenes.
Yong Kai is also a leader off-the-field, encouraging his team to adopt leadership qualities and proactive-thinking themselves. He describes his approach, “I take much pride in nurturing the leaders in my team to their fullest potential, so that they could themselves lead and positively influence those under their charge to achieve far-reaching effects.”
Nurturing a Broad Range of Expertise
As Yong Kai progressed through his career, the SCDF has rotated him through a series of diverse roles, allowing him to pick up a multitude of skills and experiences. He has recently been posted to Assistant Director (Emergency Preparedness) at Ministry of Home Affairs. He describes how each previous role has prepared him for this bigger role and transition, empowering him to be a better professional. “I served as a Rota Commander at Alexandra Fire Station, where I accumulated ground experience as a frontline officer. After which, I served as a Senior Staff Officer in Operations Department in SCDF Headquarters, where I worked on operational policies and projects.”
Yong Kai also has prior experience as a Project Officer overseeing the development of the SCDF’s unmanned fire-fighting machine (UFM). The project won the Ministry of Home Affairs 3I Platinum Award, the highest honour given for innovation at the Ministry level. In addition, Yong Kai is able to see the fruits of his labour in action when responding to industrial fires.
Chen Yong Kai
Assistant Director, Emergency
Preparedness (Ministry of Home Affairs)
Local Merit Scholarship
Bachelor in Engineering (Major in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Nanyang Technological University
The SCDF has also continually invested in Yong Kai’s development throughout his near seven year tenure with them. Yong Kai has been empowered through both holistic and specialised self-improvement courses such as policy development, communication and leadership. In addition, he finds himself well-travelled and well-connected through the experiences and people he meets through overseas conferences. He recalls having the opportunity to undertake his liquefied natural gas fire suppression training in Texas.
In addition to being a Fire Station Commander, Yong Kai has previous experience in the Operations Department, trained to be an Advanced HazMat Specialist. This docket of experiences, soft skills and specialised training the SCDF has built up in Yong Kai leaves him confident in his versatility to handle a wide range of responsibilities should they come his way.
A Lifetime Calling
Yong Kai is hyped about the trajectory the SCDF has planned for the near future. He explains, “The SCDF is currently embarking on a transformation journey, and working towards our vision of ‘A Nation of Lifesavers’ by 2025.” This initiative aims to leverage the latest technology to empower the community to take a more active role in safeguarding the nation.
Having already stayed for an additional four years after fulfilling his three year bond, Yong Kai has no plans to give up this adventure in the near future. “I derive immense job satisfaction from the meaningful work that I do every day,” he affectionately highlights. “The SCDF values my contributions, gives me ample career opportunities, and develops me professionally.”
For Yong Kai, it was the right fit from the start. He opted to accept SCDF’s Local Merit Scholarship, going on to attain a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). He shares his motivations in choosing this scholarship, “I wanted to study in Singapore so that I could care for my parents who are in their old age.” The scholarship also allowed Yong Kai to go on a one semester exchange programme abroad, which allowed him to gain valuable overseas experiences without having to be away from his family for too long.
“You will face a multitude of challenges that will test your mettle,” Yong Kai advices prospective SCDF scholars. He continues, “As a leader, you must be forward-looking, and start identifying and addressing future challenges now. At the end of the day, you will be rewarded with a fulfilling career and immense job satisfaction.”