Published: 09 January 2023
Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what were the challenges experienced during the firefighting operation on 8 December 2022 which resulted in the passing of an SCDF NSF firefighter; and (b) how does SCDF ensure that its frontline officers are adequately trained and equipped to carry out their duties safely and effectively.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs (a) what are the reasons for an NSF firefighter falling unconscious and who later died in a firefighting operation at 91 Henderson Road on 8 December 2022; (b) what are the safety measures to ensure firefighters operate safely; (c) when will the investigation into the incident be completed; (d) whether the full investigation report will be made public; and (e) whether safety measures will be reviewed in light of this incident
Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development:
1. Mr Speaker, Sir, my response will also cover the matters raised in the question by Mr Gerald Giam which is scheduled for a subsequent sitting. I invite the Member to seek clarifications, if need be. If the Member’s questions have been addressed, it may not be necessary for the Member to proceed with his question at the subsequent sitting.
2. The safety of all Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel is of utmost importance to the Home Team.
3. To be deployed as firefighters, NSFs need to be certified medically fit and of Physical Employment Standards (PES) ‘A’, ‘B1’ or ‘B2’. They will also need to complete a four-week Basic Rescue Training as well as a twelve-week Firefighter Course (FFC) at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA).
4. The FFC includes both theoretical and practical components, and a series of proficiency and certification tests. These include the Individual Physical Proficiency Test, Breathing Apparatus Proficiency Test, Hazmat Responder Certification Test, Firemanship Skills Assessment and a written test on basic firemanship, rescue, and equipment knowledge. In addition to the skills taught in the FFC, Regular Servicemen and NSFs who are appointed to leadership roles will undergo a Section Commander or Rota Commander Course, which trains them to lead a section comprising 3-4 personnel, or a Rota which is a duty shift comprising several sections.
5. Firefighting training at the CDA is conducted with ‘live' fire simulators to provide realism, so that trainees gain experience operating in conditions similar to real-life firefighting. SCDF has protocols to ensure that the training curriculum is reviewed regularly to ensure currency.
6. After graduating from the CDA, training continues to be an integral part of a firefighter’s daily routine, including NSF firefighters. Firefighters undergo exercises and drills during each shift, to familiarise themselves with their respective roles and functions as part of a crew, as well as to maintain individual fitness and competencies. They must also undergo annual proficiency tests conducted by CDA to ensure that their skills and fitness levels meet the required standards.
7. In a fire emergency, NSF firefighters and NSF section commanders are deployed alongside Regular Servicemen in a section. NSmen and Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) volunteer firefighters may also be deployed within the section.
8. Depending on the scale of the emergency, the taskforce that is activated may comprise several sections. The taskforce is led by a ground commander, who is responsible for leading the operation. The ground commander will monitor and direct the operation, and request for more resources as reinforcement, if necessary.
9. All firefighting Personal Protective Equipment used by SCDF are certified according to relevant international standards such as the American National Fire Protection Association standards and European standards.
10. Mr Murali Pillai asked about the challenges experienced by the SCDF during the firefighting operation on 8 December 2022. While responding to the incident, the SCDF officers found the fire engine accessway leading to Block 91 Henderson Road obstructed by a tent where a funeral wake was being held. The officers removed the bollards that were padlocked to the ground near the tentage to create an access path. This delayed their arrival by 18 minutes. Based on the ground commander’s assessment of the resources needed for the operation, 22 emergency vehicles and 61 responders from 6 fire stations were deployed to the incident. About 40 percent of the responders were National Servicemen – meaning the majority, 60% of the responders were Regular Officers.
11. The passing of SGT1 Edward Go is the first SCDF fatality in a firefighting operation. The Police are currently conducting an independent, thorough investigation into the circumstances of SGT1 Edward’s demise, and will apprise the Coroner of its findings. At this stage, it is premature to determine the factors which contributed to SGT1 Edward’s death. The Coroner will consider the Police’s investigation findings, in determining the cause of death. Due to the ongoing investigations, we are unable to share further details at this stage.
12. SCDF will seek to understand what had happened, including if standard operating procedures and protocols had been followed, and how these may need to be tightened to keep the officers as safe as possible when they serve our nation.