Published: 21 August 2018
Commissioner Eric Yap;
Mr Alan Loh, Chairman of the National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Good morning. I am delighted to be here at the Fire Safety Seminar 2018. We are delighted that so many of you, 1,000 of you, have decided to join us for our seminar. This is the highest number of participants that we have had for this seminar since 2008. I think the high participation rate for this seminar demonstrates the industry’s strong commitment in maintaining fire safety and emergency preparedness.
Review of Fire Statistics and Incidents
2. The fire safety situation in Singapore has been improving. We see that the number of fire incidents is at a 40-year low. The total number of fires SCDF has had to respond to in 2017 was 3,871, a six per cent fall from the previous year.
3. We must strive to further improve fire safety. We must not and cannot be satisfied even with where we are now. With every fire, there is a risk – to property, to lives, to yourselves. The extent of damage that the fire causes depends on how ready we are.
4. A case in point was the fire at a Kranji warehouse on 22 March this year. It happened just two days after a massive operation by SCDF to put out an oil tank fire at Pulau Busing. I am sure many of you would have read about it. The Kranji warehouse fire involved waste materials which were hard to extinguish quickly. Over 70 firefighters and 16 firefighting appliances and support vehicles had to be deployed to fight the fire in an eight-hour operation. You can imagine the scale of resources needed to put out such a fire. Firefighters had to cope with challenging conditions due to the poor visibility and uneven terrain within the warehouse.
5. Such warehouse fires are a great concern and I think they should be a great concern to all of us and to SCDF. SCDF’s Fire Investigation Unit will be speaking later on how to prevent warehouse fires. I am sure all of us will gain important learning points from the presentation.
Revised Fire Code
6. We will also be launching the 2018 Fire Code today. In fact, the last revision of the Fire Code was in 2013. The revised Fire Code is the result of years of close collaboration with the public and private sectors. Where relevant, we had adopted an evidence-based approach to validate the Fire Code requirements using modelling studies, fire tests and comparative studies.
7. For example, we used fire modelling studies to determine the optimal opening size of smoke vents and their distribution in an auditorium to facilitate the effective dispersion of smoke outside the building. This will help to minimise the risk of smoke-logging in the event of a fire.
8. The findings from this evidence-based approach were then deliberated by the Fire Code Review Committee, which includes professional institutions such as the Singapore Institute of Architects, Institution of Engineers Singapore, Institution of Fire Engineers Singapore, and Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore. I gather that you can see that we have consulted many professional bodies when we implement such changes. Such an approach brings rigour to our review. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partner organisations and stakeholders who have contributed to the review of the Fire Code.
9. We have also made the revised Fire Code more readable and easily understood to practitioners such as yourselves. We recognise that there is a growing number of requirements under the Fire Code, due to the introduction of new systems, fire safety products and developments to the building industry over the years.
10. We have received feedback that it is not always easy to understand the Fire Code. The Fire Code is only helpful if it is helpful to the reader and to practitioners such as yourselves. So we have taken your feedback into consideration. The Fire Code, we understand, is quite lengthy and some parts are quite complicated. It is also not easy to cross reference the main text and the appendixes of the Fire Code.
11. We formed an editorial team to edit and proof-read the Fire Code. The team has helped to shortened and rephrased some lengthy clauses, and incorporated the appendixes into the respective chapters of the Code. We hope that this will help you better interpret and understand the Fire Code.
12. In line with the times, we have also developed an electronic version of the Fire Code, or the E-Fire Code. With the E-Fire Code, you will no longer need to manually refer to multiple documents and annexes, as there will be links to enable easy referencing to other clauses and standards. Each change to the Fire Code will also have a time stamp, so you know when the change was made. You will also, with the E-Fire Code, be able to do online searches of specific clauses using the search functions and be able to view earlier versions of the Fire Code.
13. I hope that you will find all these the improvements relevant and useful for your work. We encourage you to be able to quickly and frequently refer to the Fire Code so that you are kept updated and kept knowledgeable about the changes we have made and how it is relevant to your work.
Requirement for Home Fire Alarm Devices
14. We have not just made editorial and stylistic changes. There have also been new requirements, like the provision of Home Fire Alarm Devices, have also been incorporated into the revised Fire Code.
15. From 1 June 2018, building plans for all new residential premises submitted to SCDF must incorporate the installation of fire alarms. Existing homes which undergo renovation works with fire safety implications, such as the installation or re-location of fire doors, will also be required to install fire alarms. This can provide early warning of fires in residential premises, allowing residents to extinguish the fire or to evacuate the premises, before the fire escalates. As residents ourselves, I’m sure you would appreciate the importance of such devices. Any form early warning will allow us, as residents, to evacuate from the premises soon and safely.
16. At the end of the day, the Fire Code is only a document. We need to rely on the building industry and fire safety practitioners like yourselves, to ensure that buildings are compliant, that they are fire-safe and to ensure that building occupants are ready to respond in event of a fire.
17. We thank you for your commitment to ensuring fire safety and emergency preparedness. Like Chairman Mr Alan Loh before me, I would like to extend my appreciation to the guest speakers of this seminar for taking the time and effort to share your expertise in fire safety with the all participants we have today. Finally, my big thanks to Mr Alan Loh, Chairman NFEC, for the many years and all the hard work that you and your Committee have gone through and done over the years for all of us.
18. With that, I wish you all a meaningful and fruitful seminar. Thank you very much for your support.