Published: 01 February 2019
1. The Civil Defence and Other Matters (Amendment) (CDOM) Bill was passed by Parliament on 20 November 2018.
Key Provisions to Take Effect on 1 February 2019
2. The following key provisions of the CDOM Act (“Act”) will take effect on 1 February 2019. This includes changes to the Civil Defence Act, and related changes in the legislation of other Home Team Departments, such as the Immigration Act, Police Force Act and Prisons Act.
(a) Enhancement of SCDF’s Operational Response and Efficiency
3. SCDF’s Public Warning System (PWS) is a critical tool to save lives in times of emergency by alerting members of the public to imminent threats to their safety and security, so they can take action to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. The Act requires building owners to provide space within, and grant SCDF officers access to, their premises for the installation, maintenance and repair of PWS sirens and other emergency devices. Failure to do so, as well as the unauthorised removal or damage of these devices, are offences under the Act.
4. The Act empowers SCDF officers attending to medical emergencies to collect the fingerprints and other personal identifiers of patients who are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate. This is to allow SCDF officers to identify such patients and retrieve their emergency health records quickly, including known allergies, in order to administer appropriate and timely medical interventions. SCDF has put in place robust IT security systems and processes, as well as developed clear guidelines regarding access rights, to safeguard the information. Penalties will be imposed for any misuse of the information.
(b) Provision of Necessary Powers and Protection to SCDF Officers
5. The Act grants SCDF officers explicit powers for day-to-day non-fire Civil Defence (CD) operations so that SCDF officers can carry out their jobs effectively. SCDF officers often have to perform emergency and rescue operations which require swift and decisive action. These include forcibly entering premises to save lives, as well as removing objects that impede operations. However, for some types of operations, such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and rescue operations, till now, SCDF officers have been relying simply on common law to justify the use of such powers.
6. SCDF officers often encounter dangerous situations and need to take risk-calibrated actions in their day-to-day operations. Presently, they are explicitly protected from legal liability only during fire-fighting operations and Civil Defence (CD) operations carried out during a state of emergency or state of CD emergency. The Act formally extends protection from legal liability, to acts performed during day-to-day operations, as long as the officer acted in good faith and with reasonable care in the course of saving lives and preventing injuries. This protection is also made available to the crew of private ambulance operators appointed by SCDF, as well as Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen attached to the SCDF’s EMS unit, as they also attend to such life-saving cases.
(c) Strengthening of SCDF’s Disciplinary and Human Resource Processes
7. The Act allows SCDF operationally-ready NSmen to voluntarily extend their service beyond the current stipulated maximum service age (40 years for those holding the rank of Senior Warrant Officer and below, and 50 for those holding the rank of Second Lieutenant and above). This allows SCDF to continue to tap on their valuable expertise and years of experience. These volunteers will be accorded the same powers, protection, recognition and benefits as operationally-ready NSmen, and will be subject to the same disciplinary regime.
8. In the course of their work, Home Team officers may be exposed to certain health hazards. The Act provides for the powers to ensure that SCDF officers undergo medical examinations and treatments (including vaccinations), if necessary. This will avoid situations where officers refuse to go for such medical examinations or treatments, despite possibility of exposure to health hazards, which may affect not just the officer but his colleagues. Non-compliance by SCDF officers will constitute a service offence under the Act. The Police Force Act will be amended to create similar provisions for Police officers.
Other Provisions to Take Effect in 2Q2019
9. The other new or updated provisions of the Act will take effect in the second quarter of 2019. They include a new appeal mechanism for SCDF national servicemen to appeal against the outcomes of summary trials; allowing errant SCDF national servicemen to be tried within three years from the day their offence was reported or discovered, regardless when the offence had been committed; increases to the maximum fine quanta for SCDF national servicemen; and the introduction of penalties for the unauthorised production, distribution and use of Home Team uniforms and insignia.