Published: 25 August 2023
Mr Markham Shaw, Chairman of the National Fire and Emergency Preparedness Council,
Commissioner Eric Yap,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to all of you. I would like to welcome you to the NFEC Fire Safety Seminar. This annual seminar was held virtually in the past three years, and it is wonderful that we are once again able to meet physically at this year’s seminar. I think we will all benefit from the opportunity to interact and network in person.
2. I am told that there are over 1,000 participants attending this seminar. The consistent high participation at this seminar demonstrates the industry’s strong commitment to maintaining fire safety and emergency preparedness.
3. The theme of today’s seminar is “Learn, Apply, Share”. While these three words may sound simple, the challenge is to put into practice the lessons learnt today. I hope that through the sharing later by our six guest speakers, participants will be able to learn from their expertise, apply the learning in your respective capacities, and share the insights and best practices with others.
Importance of Fire Prevention and Emergency Preparedness
4. Over the years, the NFEC has been working closely with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and other partners to raise fire safety and emergency preparedness standards in Singapore.
5. I attended the Fire Safety Asia Conference that was co-organised by NFEC and SCDF in November last year. I was impressed by the huge turnout as well as the energy level of the participants. That conference, together with other programmes such as the Mass Fire Evacuation Drill mentioned by Mr Markham Shaw earlier, reflects the close collaboration among industry stakeholders in achieving high standards of fire safety.
6. Singapore has a good track record in fire safety. In 2022, the number of fires decreased by 2.4% from that in 2021. Fires involving active mobility devices have also decreased by a third. According to the World Fire Statistics Report 2022, Singapore continues to have one of the lowest fire fatality rates in the world.
7. That said, we cannot afford to be complacent. Fires continue to happen. Many of these fires were accidental fires that could have been prevented. I hope that the NFEC and other stakeholders will continue to work with the SCDF and strive to improve the public’s awareness and understanding of fire safety.
Introduce the New Edition of Fire Code 2023
8. Today, we will be launching the 9th edition of the Code of Practice for Fire Precautions in Buildings 2023, or more commonly known as the Fire Code 2023. The Fire Code is revised every five years to keep pace with changes in the operating environment and the latest best practices.
9. The Fire Code 2023 was formulated by the Fire Code Review Committee, which comprises representatives from various government agencies, professional bodies, and tertiary education institutions. Through a consultative partnership with the fire safety-related industry and stakeholders, the Fire Code 2023 was crafted with consideration for the various needs of the industry, the latest technologies, and how best to ensure the safety of everyone.
Theme for Fire Code 2023 – Ensuring Fire Safety Amidst Push for Sustainability
10. One of the key thrusts for the Fire Code 2023 is to ensure fire safety amidst a push for sustainability. Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 charts our nation’s sustainability development targets for the decade. In the next few years, we can expect to see more infrastructural changes to accommodate the use of cleaner energy sources.
11. As a result of this drive towards sustainable development, fire safety regulations must also be continually reviewed to ensure that they address the changing fire safety needs and risks, without being unnecessarily onerous.
12. Within the Fire Code 2023, one example of this is the review and streamlining of regulations relating to the installation of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. With the increasing adoption of EVs in Singapore, this review will help to considerably reduce the time required to process and approve applications to install EV chargers.
13. Solar photo-voltaic systems, or PV systems in short, are also increasingly being adopted in Singapore, especially the use of alternate installation methods such as PV systems which are wall-mounted. Specific fire safety requirements and guidelines have since been introduced in the latest Fire Code to provide clarity to building owners and ensure that fire safety is maintained without requirements being unnecessarily stringent and costly.
14. These revisions in the Fire Code 2023 are examples of how we seek to help those in the fire safety industry better manage and facilitate a smooth transition towards a sustainable, “green” future for all of us in Singapore.
Addressing Specific Concerns of Industry Partners
15. The Fire Code 2023 also addresses specific concerns we hear from stakeholders.
16. To support the growing high-tech agriculture industry, the Fire Code Review Committee has carefully studied the fire safety requirements of food farms. Because of the lower associated fire risks, the fire safety requirements for local food production and farm buildings have been reviewed and calibrated. This will translate into lower construction costs for the farming industry, while maintaining the necessary fire safety standards.
17. For those in the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry, one of the key fire safety concerns relates to the Kitchen Exhaust Duct (KED) and its maintenance requirements. The accumulation of oil and grease within a poorly maintained KED could cause a fire. The Fire Code has been revised to introduce specific requirements to facilitate the ease of cleaning and maintenance of KEDs. Administrative requirements have also been added to facilitate compliance inspections by the authorities. I hope that the introduction of these regulations and requirements would help to improve fire safety in the F&B industry.
18. The examples I have shared are some of the key changes within the Fire Code 2023. To help fire safety practitioners and building professionals develop an even deeper understanding and knowledge of the Fire Code 2023, the SCDF and the Singapore Institute of Architects have launched the inaugural Digital Fire Code and Safety Principles Course on 8 June 2023. I highly encourage all who are interested to attend this course.
19. The SCDF alone will not be able to achieve a high level of fire safety and emergency preparedness in the community. The continued support of all stakeholders, industry partners and fire safety practitioners like yourselves, is critical. I want to thank all of you for working together with us to keep Singapore safe and secure, especially with regards to fire safety.
20. In closing, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the NFEC for organising this seminar, which will enable practitioners to continually keep abreast of new developments in fire safety and emergency preparedness in Singapore. It is only through such collaborations and partnerships, that we have been able to develop the Fire Code, and make sure that the recommendations are relevant to the needs of the country and to people. As you can see from what I shared earlier, the changes that we have made, while we have tried our best to make it less onerous, we also want to enhance fire safety. It is not simple; it is an important calibration process. At the end of the day, our priority is to ensure that it will be safe for the people who use it. And at the same time, we will continue to listen to feedback, so please share them with us, so that we can continue to improve the processes and ensure safety for people.
21. I want to also extend my appreciation to the six guest speakers, for taking the time and effort to share your expertise with us. I’m sure everyone will benefit greatly from your sharing, as well as the SCDF officers working hard on this.
22. I would like to wish everyone a fruitful seminar and a pleasant day ahead. Thank you for having me this morning.