Published: 10 June 2022
And not forgetting our esteemed international partners and guests joining in online,
Hello, and a very good morning to you.
1. Welcome to the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Workplan Seminar 2022. I am very humbled and honoured to join you this morning.
2. Amidst a challenging 2021, SCDF has continued its good work and have done the Home Team proud:
(a) Singapore continued to have amongst the lowest fire fatality rates in the world.
(b) SCDF remains steadfast in the nation’s continued fight against COVID-19, despite the surge in demand for emergency medical services.
(c) Internationally, SCDF flew Singapore’s flag high. It held successful chairmanships of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management (AMMDM) and ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM), taking the lead in strengthening governance, partnership and innovation for disaster management and disaster risk reduction in ASEAN.
Building a Nation of Lifesavers
3. Public trust is one of the most important foundations upon which public agencies are built.
4. I am proud to say that the Home Team and SCDF have done well to earn the public’s trust and confidence.
(a) In a survey that we conducted in 2021, 92.3% of Singapore residents surveyed rated favourably the Home Team’s performance in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
(b) In the same survey, SCDF attained 94.5% of public approval rating in the management of fire and rescue operations, and 93.1% in the management of emergency medical services.
5. High public trust empowers SCDF to act decisively to save lives and encourages public cooperation during emergencies.
(a) This is crucial in the life and death situations that my colleagues and our officers at SCDF face, where every second counts.
(b) This trust also contributes to the public’s acceptance and willingness to comply to fire safety regulations and guidelines, thereby increasing the fire safety standards in Singapore.
6. To realise our vision to have “A Nation of Lifesavers”:
(a) We must have a collective effort that involves close partnership with the community which is very necessary.
(b) Raising community preparedness is a key pillar to building an emergency-ready Singapore.
(c) We should never take our present safety and security for granted, and everyone can play a part.
7. There are more than 112,000 registered Community First Responders today and they have responded to more than 7,670 cases. In an emergency, every action counts, and every second matters. For instance, studies have shown that a cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival decreases by 7 – 10 per cent every minute that passes without CPR and the use of AED. Bystander CPR can help to increase the chances of survival. I applaud our community responders for their public-spiritedness.
8. SCDF is committed to expand upon the Community First Responders programme, strengthen community engagement, and develop community resilience through imparting Emergency Preparedness skills. This reinforces the high level of trust between the community and SCDF.
The Future is Here
9. Apart from public trust and close community partnership, innovation is another key enabler for SCDF to work towards its goal of fostering “A Nation of Lifesavers”.
10. SCDF has continually changed the way it operates, to meet new challenges in its operating landscape. I am happy to share that SCDF has started to reap the rewards of its transformation journey. “The Future is Here” indeed.
11. The future starts from the training of SCDF officers. SCDF has applied Science and Technology and data analytics in the training of its officers.
(a) One of the examples would be the Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Lab, or “EXCEL” in short, which will be launched at this Workplan seminar.
(b) Developed jointly with HTX, EXCEL collects and holistically analyses the physiological and cognitive data of trainees. This enables the development of customised training programmes to enhance responder performance and maximise officers’ potential through an evidence-based approach.
12. In operational capabilities, SCDF has successfully leveraged technology in several areas. Let me share and elaborate.
(a) A hallmark of SCDF’s continuous innovation is the Light Fire Attack Vehicle, also known as the Red Rhino. The 6th generation of the Red Rhino will be launched later today. Designed in collaboration with local engineering firm Hope Technik, it has improved ergonomics with easier access to firefighting and rescue equipment. It will carry enhanced firefighting and rescue equipment such as a battery operated hydraulic force entry tool, two Compressed Air Foam trolleys, and a Fire Blanket for vehicle fires.
(b) The public may soon expect to see new robots responding to emergencies alongside SCDF firefighters. The 2nd generation of the Red Rhino Robot is a modular platform that can perform a range of functions at the scene of the fire. It can be used for firefighting, equipment carrying, and as a stretcher carrier. The robot will be fitted into all the 6th generation Red Rhinos by end 2023. These robots free up our responders to perform other critical tasks, such as rescue and extrication of casualties. It is SCDF’s latest and smallest firefighting robot.
(c) SCDF also leverages data for a swifter emergency response and better patient outcomes. The Dynamic Response Optimisation (DRO) applies machine learning and optimisation techniques on demand data to recommend optimal standby locations for SCDF’s appliances.
(d) Another example would be the “OMNII”, or the Operational Medical Networks Informatics Integrator. The OMNII digital platform allows both the SCDF and hospitals to view, document, and share patient data in real-time. The platform was developed by SCDF together with the Ministry of Health and the Defence Science and Technology Agency. HTX and the Integrated Health Information Systems also supported the development of the OMNII. Since its launch in mid-2021, we have received positive feedback. I will share a couple of actual cases with you.
(I) In a case of heart attack, the clear and timely information received by the hospital’s emergency department via OMNII allowed them to make medical preparations and to activate the cardiologist early, before the ambulance arrived. Due to the timely interventions, the patient survived.
(iii) In another case of road traffic accident, on-site photos and real-time sharing of vital signs by the paramedics allowed the doctors to pre-assess the condition of the patients. The trauma team was activated for standby immediately at the hospital and there was seamless transition of care from SCDF to the trauma team when the patients arrived at the hospital.
13. SCDF has stayed at the forefront of innovation and technology to improve its firefighting and emergency response capabilities. This allows SCDF to achieve world-class outcomes, despite SCDF being one of the smallest emergency services worldwide.
14. Our operational environment will continue to evolve. SCDF must respond nimbly to stay ahead of the challenges. In this regard, I will make two new announcements.
Deployment of Hazmat Sensors
15. First, the deployment of Hazardous Materials (HazMat) sensors. During a HazMat incident, quick detection of the chemical and constant monitoring of the ambient hazard level are critical. These enable SCDF to determine the affected areas, so that appropriate and timely public protective actions, such as evacuation, can be implemented.
16. To address this, SCDF will progressively deploy HazMat sensors at various locations across Singapore. These sensors will enhance SCDF’s capabilities to conduct real-time sense making and enable early detection, monitoring of, and response to incidents involving hazardous materials.
17. Second, non-dispatch for non-emergency calls. SCDF responded to more than 210,000 emergency medical services (EMS) calls in 2021. This was an increase of about 12% from 2020.
18. Since 2017, SCDF has adopted a tiered approach to manage increasing demand for emergency services.
(a) In 2017, SCDF started dispatching Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in firefighting vehicles to respond to cases of medical emergencies. This has helped bridge the response time for time-sensitive cases and allowed our responders to perform lifesaving interventions earlier.
(b) In April 2019, SCDF implemented the policy of non-conveyance, if the case is assessed by an on-site paramedic to be non-emergency.
19. However, calls for emergency medical services continue to increase. Going one step further, SCDF is working on a non-dispatch policy for cases triaged to be non-emergencies by the 995 Ops Centre. This will ensure that our EMS resources are optimised for emergencies only, as committing emergency resources to non-emergency cases will deprive those in need.
20. Members of public can be assured that their requests will be professionally triaged through the rigorous Advanced Medical Protocol System (AMPS) and assessed by trained Ops Centre call-takers. This non-dispatch policy is expected to be implemented sometime next year.
21. Colleagues and friends, in conclusion, SCDF has made tremendous headway in its transformation journey thus far. Supported by close community partnership, SCDF is well headed towards its goal of fostering “A Nation of Lifesavers”.
22. To all SCDF officers, thank you for your dedication and professionalism in protecting and saving lives and property for a safe and secure Singapore.
23. Since I became a community leader, I have always been intrigued by the work of our SCDF officers. When I became a Member of Parliament, even before I joined the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), I was quite fortunate to be able to respond in time, together with the people around whenever there was a crisis or incident within the community.
24. After I joined MHA, I often meet our officers who work very hard to put out fires and ensure the safety of the public. What always impressed me was the passion, commitment and the very clear mission of our SCDF officers. Even though some of them came from different areas of work, fire stations, and departments, they always knew what to do when they were together on-site. Their training enabled them to give their best in handling the situation, and helping to keep Singapore safe and secure. My sincere thanks to all our officers and management of SCDF, for making this happen, and for working very hard to keep Singapore safe and secure.
25. I wish all of you a fruitful and successful workplan seminar. Thank you.