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SCDF to improve on some processes after Little India riot

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that following the Little India riot, it has identified lessons to be learnt from the incident and will put in place measures to improve some of its processes.

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that following the Little India riot, it has identified lessons to be learnt from the incident and will put in place measures to improve some of its processes.

This was told to the Committee of Inquiry by two senior SCDF officers who took the stand on day eight of the hearing.

Video shown at the hearing was released to the media for the first time.

One video footage was taken from a camera inside the bus that was attacked by rioters on the night of December 8.

In it, SCDF officer Tiffany Neo was seen calling out to bus driver Lee Kim Huat. She did not get any response.

To look for him, she had to walk on the seats because of the debris on the bus floor.

Initially, she could not see Mr Lee because he was taking refuge from the angry mob under a rubbish bin.

After he emerged from under the bin, Lieutenant Neo's mission was to get Mr Lee and bus timekeeper Wong Gek Woon to safety.

She recounted how she used her hands to shield Mr Lee's bare head as they left the bus, protecting him from any projectiles that flew into the vehicle.

Earlier, she recalled being hit twice on her back by someone in the crowd as she was helping to move the body of Indian national Sakthivel Kumaravelu to an ambulance.

The SCDF also said it plans to improve certain processes following an after-action review of the Little India riot.

This includes improving the protection of its personnel and vehicles by increasing the number of helmets inside each of its ambulances.

Currently, SCDF emergency ambulances carry one rescue helmet for paramedics to work in the risk area. But it plans to increase the number of helmets to commensurate with the number of personnel on board.

This was told to the committee by Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Seet, who added that the SCDF will also seek inputs from the Police on developing a joint standard operating procedure to handle civil disorder scenarios.

The SCDF also plans to further enhance training to help its responders and commanders better manage uncertainties on the ground.

Other plans involve enhancing SCDF's sense-making capabilities, by integrating its video footage and duty officer system with more video feeds from other agencies in future.

For now, the SCDF Ops Centre receives real-time videos of incidents. For example, during the riot, its ops centre received real-time videos of the riot via cameras mounted on emergency vehicles - which helped in the sense-making process that time.

The SCDF will also leverage social media platforms to complement situation awareness at its ops centre.

Deputy Commissioner of SCDF Jackson Lim, who was the day's final witness, said the riot was an important piece of learning that the SCDF has now started to include in its basic training for officers.

He also addressed queries as to why there was a delay in sending SCDF's fire engines to douse the burning vehicles. The request came about 10 to 15 minutes after the SCDF officers had left the scene due to safety reasons.

He sought the committee's understanding that it was a decision that the officers had to make.

"With the injured attended to and the trapped victim extricated, we decided it is not worthwhile to commit the fire engines to extinguish the fires until it is safe for our personnel to do it," he said, adding that when SCDF's ambulance was attacked, it did not make sense for them to remain on site after the rescue of all the injured was complete.

He also noted that it had been assessed that there was no risk of the fire spreading, even though the vehicles were burning.

"It's a fine balance that SCDF has to operate between taking risks and to ensure the safety of our personnel," he said. 

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