Published: 23 November 2019
Commissioner Eric Yap,
Colleagues and friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good afternoon to all.
2. Today, we recognise the contributions of SCDF officers and community partners in protecting and saving lives and property. We also look forward to a keen contest of skills by the 13 international teams participating in the Singapore-Global Firefighters and Paramedics Challenge.
3. The theme for this year’s event is “A Nation of Lifesavers: Transforming as One”.
4. “A Nation of Lifesavers” is a vision where everyone in Singapore steps forward during an emergency to help save lives.
5. “Transforming as One” is about working with our partners to transform and innovate to meet the future challenges of providing emergency services.
6. Transformation is important in light of our ageing population. Medical needs will rise, straining our emergency medical services, while SCDF increasingly faces manpower constraints. SCDF will need to do more with less.
7. For example, SCDF has put in place a tiered response system for Emergency Medical Services. With 500 ambulance calls received every day, real emergencies such as cardiac arrests and strokes must be given highest priority. Non-emergency cases should go to clinics or use the 1777 hotline instead, to avoid depriving someone else of urgent medical attention.
8. From April this year, SCDF has stopped sending non-emergency cases to the hospital; it has redirected about 600 of such cases between April to July. This is a much needed improvement. We can do better with public understanding and support to avoid misuse of the 995 hotline, especially since ten per cent of calls are false alarms or non-emergencies, like coughs or toothaches.
9. SCDF will continue to explain and create better understanding of what should be done for emergency and non-emergency cases.
A Nation of Lifesavers
10. Let me talk more about being a Nation of Lifesavers. SCDF also needs the community to step forward in order for this vision to be realised.
11. When incidents happen, a relative, colleague or even a passerby may respond much faster than SCDF officers. Their intervention can make the difference between life and death.
12. I would like to make special mention of the Company Emergency Response Team (CERT) from the National University of Singapore. In March this year, they responded to a fire at a laboratory at the medicine faculty building, extinguishing it and helping to evacuate over 1,000 people. For their swift actions, they will be awarded with the Outstanding CERT Award. There are currently 3,000 workplace premises that have formed CERTs and we hope to have more.
13. CERTs are just one example of how volunteerism has ensured the safety of fellow Singaporeans. As we mark 150 years of civil defence volunteerism, I would like to pay tribute to firstly, the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) – over 330 personnel today who respond to incidents alongside regulars. Second, the student volunteers from the Civil Defence Lionhearter Clubs and National Civil Defence Cadet Corps who advocate for emergency preparedness. Third, the members of the public, who have stepped forward as Community First Responders during emergencies.
14. Your efforts have brought us closer to being a Nation of Lifesavers. Thank you very much for your contributions.
Transforming as One
15. Moving forward, SCDF will continue to work with volunteers and community partners and transform as one to meet our future needs.
16. The scheme for CDAU volunteers will be progressively enhanced from next year onwards. SCDF will expand opportunities for CDAU volunteers to contribute, for instance firefighting in the Marine Division, or providing basic medical advice at the 995 Operations Call Centre.
17. CDAU volunteers will be supported with more training opportunities, including milestone courses and training in new areas and soft skills such as psychological first aid, effective communication and leadership.
18. SCDF will create an Executive Committee to oversee CDAU and allow volunteers to be more involved in decision-making processes.
19. I am also happy to note that SCDF will provide Community First Responders with personal accident insurance coverage by mid-December 2019 to ensure that they are well taken care of.
20. Aside from efforts within Singapore, SCDF will also strengthen partnerships overseas to cultivate a global community of lifesavers. Earlier this week, SCDF held its inaugural First Responders Safety and Performance Symposium, bringing together thought leaders, researchers and industry frontrunners to share innovative ideas and best practices for emergency first responders. This has brought global partners into SCDF’s transformation journey.
21. In conclusion, I would like to commend all SCDF officers, national servicemen, volunteers and community partners, for your dedication in protecting and saving lives and property. Let us strive towards the vision of becoming a Nation of Lifesavers, by Transforming as One.
22. I would also like to invite you to visit the Home Team Festival 2019 taking place next door at Hall 3, for an immersive experience on how Home Team Officers fulfil their mission every day as guardians of Singapore.
23. Have a fun and meaningful day. Thank you.