Published: 16 November 2022
Mr Markham Shaw, Chairman, National Fire and Emergency Preparedness Council (NFEC);
Commissioner Eric Yap, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF);
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning.
1. I am happy to be able to join you today at the Fire Safety Asia Conference (FiSAC) 2022.
2. It has been something that we have been looking forward to. I am also happy to see many foreign participants coming here to network and learn from each other. We would like to welcome you to FiSAC, as well as all our speakers, friends, fellow Singaporeans, and those who are joining us virtually.
3. Since its inaugural session in 2011, FiSAC has established itself as a prominent regional platform for professionals and practitioners from the fire safety and building industry to network, exchange ideas, and share insights on developments in fire safety and emergency response. The open sharing of best practices and learning experiences has proven extremely valuable to the fraternity, and I strongly encourage you to continue doing so at this year’s conference.
Overcoming Challenges During the Pandemic
4. During the pandemic, emergency services around the world had to tackle unprecedented challenges, from supporting strained healthcare systems to responding to extremely high volumes of emergency medical calls. In Singapore, the SCDF also had to ensure that robust emergency plans and firefighting provisions were put in place at numerous temporary accommodation sites set up for COVID-19 patients. Thankfully, the SCDF had the strong support of building owners, fire safety managers, and industry stakeholders, all of whom saw the urgency in setting up these care facilities around the island.
5. On the outreach front, the SCDF was fortunate to have a committed partner in NFEC, who swiftly converted traditional engagement sessions to virtual meetings and webinars. This ensured that fire safety practitioners and stakeholders could still come together to discuss emerging risks and hazards, lessons learnt from fire incidents, and responses to contingencies. This is a commendable effort to keep the links warm and strong amidst social distancing measures. I would like to commend NFEC and SCDF for working together, along with our partners.
FiSAC 2022 Theme – Rethink, Redefine, Redesign: A Breakthrough in Fire Safety, Sustainability and Emergency Response
6. As we emerge from the pandemic, global trends present new challenges and opportunities for the fire safety community. This year’s conference challenges us to rethink, redefine and redesign our fire safety and emergency response. I would like to touch on three areas – one, how to ensure fire safety amidst the push for sustainability; two, how to transform emergency response with greater adoption of technology; and three, the need to validate changes through regular tests and exercises.
Ensuring Fire Safety in the Sustainability Movement
7. For the first area, we have seen how sustainability efforts have led to the rise of “green buildings” that are more efficient and consume less energy and water. As of end 2021, 49% of Singapore buildings are considered green buildings. However, some of such building designs could also present new fire safety risks. For example, it is harder to assess whether energy efficient natural ventilation systems meet smoke management requirements, while some eco-friendly laminates and composite materials have been found to be more flammable.
8. Beyond building design, countries around the world are also promoting green energy sources and encouraging wider adoption of electric vehicles and solar photovoltaic systems. While such developments are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, there may be unfamiliar fire hazards which may pose risks to both consumers and emergency responders if not properly maintained.
9. As Singapore aims to green 80% of all our buildings and adopt cleaner-energy models for new cars and taxis by 2030, we will continue to review our fire safety regulations to ensure they address the evolving fire safety needs and risks. We have done so before, such as when the SCDF updated the Fire Code 2018 to include provisions for construction materials like composite panels and timber, energy storage systems, and electric vehicle charging stations. We must also continue to work closely with the industry to maintain high fire safety standards in the development of sustainable buildings, new electric vehicle infrastructure and solar photovoltaic systems.
Transformation in Emergency Response with Technology
10. While the sustainability movement challenges us to tackle novel fire hazards, the advancement of technology solutions presents an opportunity for us to transform our emergency response. This is the second area I would like to touch on. In Singapore, the SCDF has adopted technology more pervasively to enhance the effectiveness of our training, operational readiness, and response.
11. First, on leveraging technology for training, the SCDF launched the Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab (ExCEL) earlier this year. ExCEL uses research and data analytics on human performance to develop customised training programmes to optimise our responders’ strength, endurance, and cognitive ability.
12. Second, technology can enhance our operational readiness and enable shorter response times. For example, Internet of Things sensors installed in our firefighting vehicles reduce downtime by pre-empting and rectifying potential faults before a vehicle breakdown. The use of automated stock accounting at our medical stores in the fire stations has also reduced the turnover time for our paramedics to replenish the ambulances’ supplies, translating to enhanced operational readiness.
13. Third, the use of technology has enabled our frontliners to respond more effectively. The Operational Medical Networks Informatics Integrator (OMNII) rolled out by the SCDF last year allows our paramedics to access a patient’s medical history on-the-go via a smart tablet and communicate with a hospital’s emergency department. If you speak to both SCDF officers and our frontliners in the hospitals, they will tell you how OMNII has made a difference, with the time savings and ability to know in advance some of the information relating to the affected person enables both parties to work together and save lives. This has helped the hospitals to better prepare for the patient’s admission, even more so if he or she was in critical condition. For our firefighters, the 6th Generation Light Fire Attack Vehicle, launched earlier this year, is equipped with a compact-sized firefighting robot. The robot is capable of autonomous heat detection and nozzle aiming to support major operations.
14. These are but some examples where technology has helped ease and enhance the work of our emergency responders. I trust that the discussions at the conference will uncover more interesting experiences and case studies. In fact, if you look at the technological advancements and adoption in recent years, many more opportunities will come, and we must be able to take them onboard, in the name of saving lives.
Validate Changes Through Regular Tests and Exercises
15. The third area that I would like to talk about is the importance of validation. Even as we discuss new plans and initiatives, I see it necessary that we remind ourselves of the need to run these through regular tests and exercises. Doing so allows us to work with our stakeholders and partners to pick out any gaps that require further finetuning, and ensures that we are fully ready when there is an incident to attend to. This is very important. For Singapore, I am pleased to announce that the eleventh edition of Exercise Northstar led by the SCDF will be held early next year. This large-scale exercise will allow us to practise, validate, and update the contingency response plans for a major safety and security incident.
Strong Support and Commitment of Stakeholders and Public is Key
16. As we redesign our fire safety protocols and emergency response, the strong support and commitment from our industry and community stakeholders will always remain at the core of our efforts. We are stronger and more effective when we put our minds together to address new challenges, all in the shared spirit of wanting to ensure the safety of our people.
17. On that note, the SCDF is heartened to see individuals and organisations that have gone the extra mile to achieve higher standards in fire safety. They should be commended for their efforts. I see the good relationship and understanding between SCDF and NFEC, and at the local level, I see Singaporeans making efforts to enhance safety and working together with the SCDF and various organisations to ensure that as we develop, we continue to keep our infrastructure, amenities, and where we live, work and play, safe. This is something that I would like to commend the SCDF and NFEC for, because without their efforts working together, cascading down to the local community, what we are seeing today will not happen.
18. Tonight, I am pleased to be presenting seven Fire Safety Design Awards to the recipients for their outstanding building projects which incorporated many innovative processes and solutions. My heartiest congratulations to the winners. I look forward to meeting them and many of you tonight.
19. Finally, I would like to thank all of you for making this conference a success, especially the organising committee, and the support from SCDF Commissioner Eric and his team, to make this much-awaited FiSAC 2022 a reality. I hope we can learn and strengthen our global efforts in making fire safety a very important aspect of what we do, so that we can continue to save lives when it matters, and we are able to carry out our duties in the way we wish.
20. I wish everyone here a fruitful conference and look forward to seeing you during the FiSAC Gala Dinner this evening.
21. Thank you.