SCDF Parade And Singapore-Global Firefighters and Paramedics Challenge - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs

Published: 24 November 2018

Commissioner Eric Yap,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,




1.     Welcome to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Parade and the Singapore-Global Firefighters and Paramedics Challenge. Every year, our officers come together during the SCDF Parade to renew their commitment to their mission and that is to be our nation’s lifesaving force.


2.     In this context, I would also like to warmly welcome the families of our SCDF officers. Thank you for your support of them, so they may give of their best in protecting and saving the lives and properties of fellow Singaporeans.


3.     To our friends from abroad taking part in the Singapore-Global Firefighters and Paramedics Challenge, a very warm welcome. This year, we have 15 teams from ten countries. It promises to be an exciting and keenly contested challenge.    


SCDF’s Changing Operating Landscape 


4.     The SCDF’s perennial challenge is to do more and do better, with less. This is inevitable when we consider Singapore’s demographic trends. A greying population will strain SCDF’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), while our slowing workforce growth will constrain SCDF’s ability to expand in size. However, this does not mean that the SCDF cannot grow its ability, its reach and its effectiveness.


5.     The theme this year – “A Nation of Lifesavers, Transforming into the Future” - tells us how we can do that. “A Nation of Lifesavers” is the vision which guides SCDF's transformation efforts, while “Transforming into the Future” points to how SCDF needs to continually re-invent itself with modern technology and new processes. Allow me to elaborate.


A Nation of Lifesavers        

6.     It is not enough for Singapore to simply have a lifesaving force like the SCDF. We need every Singaporean’s involvement, so that we are a nation of lifesavers.


7.     Indeed, SCDF cannot achieve operational excellence alone. It needs the community as partner. Even with the best technology and most optimal of processes, it is a given that no emergency response can be immediate and we will not be able to respond fast enough for every single emergency. Sometimes, therefore, the difference between life and death lies in the hands of bystanders. Many a times, Good Samaritans have made the difference.


8.     Mr Koh Kah Hock is one example. Upon hearing an alarm and seeing smoke emerge from a unit of a HDB block, Mr Koh took a bucket of water and extinguished the fire. He heard screams for help and escorted an elderly lady from the unit to safety. His valiant acts not only prevented significant damage to the flat but also assisted the elderly lady, all prior to SCDF’s arrival.


9.     Another Good Samaritan is Mr Sathiyah Sadasivon, a former NCDCC member. He had witnessed a car accident whilst driving one day. He stopped his car, brought the injured driver to safety, and stayed by the driver’s side while waiting for the paramedics to arrive.


10.     Mr Koh and Mr Sadasivon will be receiving the Community Life Savers Award later in recognition of their acts.


11.     Ordinary Singaporeans have indeed played a long-standing role in our civil defence. I would like to pay tribute to our Community First Responders who intervene in the very crucial first minutes; the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit which complements our SCDF officers in responding to incidents; the CD Lionhearters – they are tertiary students who help SCDF in public education; and our students in the NCDCC who are our young civil defence advocates.


12.     In addition to our volunteers, we also have our National Servicemen. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where National Servicemen play an active role in civil defence, alongside our regular officers. We are proud of their contributions and have on parade today for the first time, the flags of SCDF’s ten Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS) units.


13.     Thank you to all our volunteers and National Servicemen for helping us move closer to becoming a nation of lifesavers.


Transforming into the Future    

14.     The next part of the theme is “Transforming into the Future”. I will share about this in three different dimensions. First, process innovation. Second, new hardware and third, involving the community in innovation.


Process Innovation

15.     First, process innovation. The demand for EMS is going up at an average of five per cent a year for the past five years. It is impossible for us to grow our resources at the same rate. We must therefore deal with the challenge in other ways.    

16.     First, the SCDF will have to increasingly prioritise resources towards the most urgent cases, and where its efforts will make the biggest difference. In the past, every emergency call was treated on a first-come-first-serve basis. SCDF continues to respond to all emergency calls. But since 2017, it has implemented an “EMS tiered response framework” to allocate resources based on case severity. Life threatening cases like cardiac arrest or major trauma now receive higher priority.    


17.     Our staff have been trained to make these assessments. That said, SCDF will err on the side of caution. In cases where the assessment is not so clear, SCDF will dispatch resources expediently.


18.     Second, SCDF has cross-trained fire-fighters and cross-deployed equipment so that it can use every resource it has for medical emergencies, improving overall response time. Over 300 fire-fighters are now capable of responding to medical emergencies. So don’t be surprised if you see Fire Bikes and Fire Medical Vehicles being deployed for medical emergencies. SCDF is looking to progressively deploy other fire-fighting vehicles such as Fire Engines and Red Rhinos for medical emergencies.


19.     Third, the use of data analytics. In the past, ambulances just waited at fire stations to be deployed. Using big data, SCDF now tries to predict the areas of greater demand which informs where ambulances should wait. We now have SCDF ambulances deployed from non-SCDF bases, such as community centres and sports hubs, for even more optimal response times.


20.     What this means is that ambulances reach patients faster. The staff complete attending to the patients faster as well. The ambulance is ready to respond to the next incident in lesser time. You see how this works. Process innovation is about making the most of existing resources.    


New Hardware

21.     Another aspect of innovation is developing new hardware to complement the concept of operations. Later, SCDF will be launching the DART Amphibious Vehicle (DAV). The DAV is able to transit almost instantaneously between water and land, making it an effective emergency vehicle for rapid response to fire and rescue emergencies in water. Do look out for it later.


Involving the Community in Innovation

22.     SCDF is always looking for new ideas, even tapping on the ingenuity of those outside the Force. This year, it introduced the “Lifesavers’ Innovation Challenge”, a platform for undergraduates to develop creative solutions for SCDF to achieve its vision of building a nation of lifesavers by 2025.

23.     Close to 30 teams from all the local universities took part.Five teams have been shortlisted and their projects will be on display in the Lifesavers’ Connect Exhibition Hall.I will specially like to congratulate Team Report from NTU for being the winners of this inaugural competition. They thought of a better way to improve communication during emergency medical calls.


24.     Currently, information is being relayed from the caller, to the operator, and then to the paramedic. To enhance the information flow, the team came up with a system to connect all three parties via video-feed.    

25.     As a proof of concept, they developed a mobile app for the caller, a web-based dashboard for the operator”, and a tablet app for the paramedic, to synchronise video communication. This system allows the paramedic to see the patient through the tablet app, better assess the situation, and better prepare to respond. The caller can be advised on simple tasks like removing obstructions which can provide more timely relief for the patient. This is an excellent example of how simple innovations can empower all of us here to be more effective actions in crucial moments.    




26.     So let me conclude and let you get on with your games. To SCDF officers, full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), ORNSmen and volunteers, thank you once again for your dedication and professionalism in protecting and saving lives and property. Together, let us form a nation of lifesavers, and transform into the future.    

27.     I wish you all a fruitful and fun gathering.


Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness