Published: 09 October 2019
Commissioner Eric Yap,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to all of you. I am personally very happy to be here, at this official opening of Kallang Fire Station, which is our 22nd fire station, and counting.
Enhancing Emergency Response
2. Kallang, as all of you would know, is an old estate. One of the oldest estates in Singapore but with very big plans to change and to regenerate.
3. There are going to be 100,000 new homes in the Kallang River area. The old industrial estates are going to be replaced by new mixed-used precincts. The Sports Hub area has sporting facilities, recreational facilities and entertainment facilities.
4. In anticipation of what is going to happen and the fact that needs are going to substantially grow, we built it ahead of time. Planning started as early as 2013. The ground-breaking for the Kallang Fire Station was two years ago. What this does is shorten the expected response time for incidents at the Sports Hub and its vicinity from 11 to eight minutes with this fire station.
Comprehensive Response Capabilities
5. The mix in Kallang is going to be very diverse. There are going to be commercial buildings, industrial buildings and residential buildings. Therefore, the Kallang Fire Station has got to serve as a base to respond to a very wide range of different types of emergencies. That means different types of response capabilities.
6. This fire station will have those assets - the different types of emergency vehicles. You will have the usual fire engines, light vehicles, and ambulances. But it will also have, in two years, a “High Level Articulated Appliance.” That is going to allow our firefighters to go up to about 30 storeys – a very high capability and a first for Singapore.
7. Actually the first fire which the assets responded to was on 15 September 2019, even before the station was fully operational on 16 September 2019. Resources were still being moved in at that time, but SCDF put out the fire and prevented it from spreading. Thankfully no one was hurt. It really is testament to SCDF’s commitment to being operationally ready.
Home Team Joint Facility
8. The location of this Fire Station, next to the Sports Hub and quite close to the City area, makes it ideal to house our first Home Team Joint Facility. It is going to be the command and staging area for Home Team specialist units when we have major events and joint operations. That I think is going to serve as a good platform for even closer collaboration between the different Home Team agencies.
9. In terms of optimisation of resources, there is going to be smarter use of data. SCDF across its Divisions has started using advanced data analytics to identify and determine how resources can be best used.
10. One application, for example, is to maximise your ambulance stand-by deployment and where you want to deploy them. This depends on where most of your incidents are. If you can deploy them near where the incidents take place, the response time will be faster.
11. They used data analytics to identify the places where it is most likely that incidents would occur, and then deployed the ambulances near those places. It sounds easy, but you need data analytics, which they are using. As a result, the number of times ambulances responded within 11 minutes rose by almost four per cent - significant.
12. Second, is using technology as a force multiplier. This month, SCDF set up its Transformation and Future Technology Department, which is going to oversee the development of new technologies.
13. SCDF will also launch an Ops-Tech career track later this year. That is going to provide structured, specialised training and development opportunities. Take the Ops-Tech specialists, give them a career path, nurture them, train them, develop them.
14. Third, is something that we have talked about - the Tiered Response System for Emergency Medical Services. I have made the point before – the number of people we can bring in to do any of the jobs that are needed to be done - including being specialists in our emergency medical vehicles, including being medics - the pool is coming down. That is the manpower situation in Singapore, whether in the public or private sector.
15. We decided to triage and look at our responses. Those which are real emergencies will be given priority. The rest which are not emergency cases, which do not need an ambulance, will be told they should go to the clinics nearby or hospitals by themselves.
16. We started Phase One two years ago. We cross-trained our fire and rescue specialists so that they could respond to medical emergencies as well as fire emergencies. We deployed them on fire bikes and fire medical vehicles.
17. Phase One has been successful. It led to a nine percentage point increase where our emergency vehicles were able to respond within eight minutes to life-threatening cases.
18. In April of this year, Phase Two kicked in. We introduced high performance Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) for cardiac arrest victims. We are trying to get more officers to be able to respond, and work as a team, to ensure that CPR is done in the ideal fashion. It significantly improves the chances of the person surviving.
19. Phase Two also involves dispatching our cross-trained officers on a wider range of vehicles, including Red Rhinos and Fire Engines. SCDF is reviewing the results of this phase, but the preliminary data is encouraging and promising. If you take the most serious cases, in 13 per cent of those cases, the response times were better and they improved.
20. Now, that is one thing for us to plan and do, but the public needs to accept that. That is where I always foresaw that we need to do a lot more public education. When members of the public are told it is not an emergency, sometimes the public does not react very well because they do not understand.
21. So - fourth, we have been trying to educate our members of the public on what is and what is not an emergency - when do you call ambulances, and when ambulances will respond, and when we will not be able to respond.
22. In fact, every day, of the 500 ambulance calls, fully 10 per cent are false alarms or non-emergencies. So you can imagine the amount of wastage, the resources which are being wasted.
23. Through our public outreach efforts, in the last two years, 2017 and 2018, non-emergency calls fell by nearly nine per cent. We have managed to bring the point across, somewhat.
24. From April of this year, we have started taking the policy that non-emergency cases will no longer be sent to hospital. Instead, they will be advised to go to a nearby clinic or to call 1777.
25. Under this new policy, Phase Two, between April to July, SCDF redirected about 600 cases that would have been previously sent to hospital. That saved resources which could be better utilised for more serious cases. About seven per cent of all non-emergency cases still insisted on being sent to hospital and obviously, it creates a certain amount of discussion.
26. I think this is the right path, and we will have to continue to explain to our people, why we have a Tiered Response, and that emergency response is for emergency cases. If the ambulance is sending someone on a non-emergency case, and there is a case that requires CPR, there’s going to be a delay and that puts lives at risk.
27. Fifth, as a strategy, SCDF is pushing on with trying to get more Community First Responders. Since 2015, SCDF has been extremely successful - more than 51,000 people in Singapore have signed up as Community First Responders.
28. Essentially, people all around in the heartlands, other places, who have been trained, who, based on receiving an alert, could help save someone’s life. It has happened, we recognise them and give them awards so that they will be able to respond to cardiac arrests even before the SCDF arrives. In the first eight minutes, 10 minutes, it can be crucial. We hope that more people will step up, SCDF will continue to push.
Nation of Lifesavers
29. Basically, we want to build a nation of lifesavers. It is not just SCDF, it is not just doctors, it is not just hospitals. Everyone will be able to respond.
30. Kallang Fire Station will play a key role in strengthening these efforts. It will host SCDF’s interim Lifesavers’ Connect Hub. The permanent Hub is being built at Hill Street. It will be opened in five to six years, so until then, this will be the Hub. It will serve as a place for volunteers and Community First Responders to come together, meet, network and get training.
31. So with that, let me conclude by thanking the officers who have made this Fire Station and the Home Team Joint Facility a reality. I thank our community and industry partners, some of whom are here. You provide important support to SCDF.
32. It is my privilege to declare this Fire Station and the Joint Facility open. Thank you.