SINGAPORE: Firefighters from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) were unable to access water supply in the hose reels at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21 last month because a switch had been left on manual instead of auto mode.
The Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC) on Monday (Dec 2) released its findings after an investigation into the incident, saying that J Keart Alliances (JKeart), the contractor responsible for maintaining the hose reels, had been "negligent in failing to ensure that a selector switch at the pump room" was in the correct mode.
Signed statements that JKeart previously gave to JCTC asserting that the hose reels were in working condition were also incorrect, said the town council in a Facebook post.
SCDF on Nov 9 said that it had issued a warning to JCTC after firefighters called to a blaze at an HDB flat found the hose reel cabinets on the 13th floor had been padlocked and the water supply cut off. Three people were injured in the fire.
On Nov 13, JCTC said that the hose reels last underwent maintenance and testing by the appointed contractor on Oct 14, 2019 and were certified to be in working condition.
In its findings on Monday, JCTC said that CCTV footage showed a JKeart employee had gone to the pump room several hours after the fire on Nov 1. Upon questioning, the employee confessed that he had re-activated the water supply after the fire.
The JKeart employee had switched the selector switch to manual mode during a maintenance cycle conducted two weeks before the fire and had forgotten to switch it back to auto mode, said JCTC.
Water supply to the hose reel is cut off when the switch is on manual mode.
"This failure had led to the hose reel system in Blk 210A having no water at the time when SCDF officers were engaged in the firefighting operation," said JCTC.
"JKeart, after revisiting the matter with the employee, informed JCTC that its earlier report asserting that there was water in the hose reel on the day of the fire incident was incorrect," it added.
JCTC will issue a notice of non-performance to JKeart to hold it contractually responsible for its failure to ensure that the hose reel system was operationally ready.
JKeart has also informed JCTC that it has taken "appropriate action" against its employee, who will also be redeployed, the town council said.
"A MISTAKE" TO PADLOCK HOSE REELS: JCTC
In its findings, JCTC said that the decision to lock the hose reel cabinets was taken by a property officer following "frequent vandalism" of the cabinets.
"This was a mistake, as it meant that the cabinets could only be opened with force during an emergency, as SCDF had done during the recent fire incident," the town council added.
The property officer "will be redeployed", the Facebook post read. Two senior officers with supervisory roles over the officer will also be penalised.
READ: Bukit Batok fire: Town Council investigating contractor's claim that fire hose reel was working, says MP Murali
JCTC also said that it has inspected the hose reels, fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment in its seven wards to ensure they are in working condition.
While almost all the hose reel systems are in operating condition, many cabinets and other equipment have been damaged through vandalism, it said, adding that it is taking "urgent steps" to repair and replace the items.
"JCTC will not hesitate to refer persons damaging and misusing fire safety equipment to the authorities for investigation," it said.
"JCTC is also looking into other steps to minimise the incidence of vandalism in the future, including changing the design of hose reel and fire extinguisher cabinets and their locking mechanisms."
The town council has set up a committee comprising of elected town councillors Mr Ang Wei Neng as chairman, Dr Tan Wu Meng and Mr Murali Pillai to recommend measures to ensure the reliability of fire emergency equipment.
The committee will engage independent experts and residents before making its proposals for further corrective and preventive measures.