SINGAPORE: The number of fires involving electric bicycles, electric scooters and other personal mobility devices (PMDs) spiked by more than 50 per cent in 2018, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said.
There were 74 such fires last year – a 51 per cent increase from the 49 cases in 2017, SCDF said in announcing its annual Fire, Emergency Medical Services and Enforcement statistics on Friday (Feb 22).
The 74 fires involved 50 electric scooters, 22 e-bikes and two of other PMDs, and caused 12 injuries.
“Most of the PAB (power-assisted bicycles) and PMD fires involved lithium-ion batteries, and occurred during battery charging or shortly after,” SCDF said. It urged the public to be more vigilant as “these fires can result in casualties and serious damage to property”.
Users should not leave these devices unattended while charging, and should not charge them near combustible materials, said Assistant Commissioner Daniel Seet, the director of SCDF’s operations department.
READ: Toa Payoh man taken to hospital after battery pack in personal mobility device catches fire
The overall number of fires remained stable in 2018, with rubbish fires remaining as the cause of most fires at residential areas and one-third of all fires in Singapore, SCDF said.
Still, these fires tend to be small and pose little risk of spreading or causing injuries, SCDF said.
“Such fires can be easily put out by members of the public ... To ensure optimisation of resources to focus on major fire and life-threatening emergencies, SCDF has empowered members of the public to respond to rubbish fires,” it said.
For instance, SCDF launched the Community First Responder (Fire) scheme last year as part of the SCDF myResponder app. The initiative alerts members of the public to minor rubbish chute and bin fires in their immediate vicinity.
To date, 15,000 people have registered to be notified of such fires via the app and SCDF has sent out alerts for more than 1,000 rubbish fires. A total of 370 individuals responded to help extinguish them.
SCDF also said it conducted 14,537 fire safety enforcement checks in 2018 and issued 2,453 notices of Fire Safety Offences and 2,462 Fire Hazard Abatement Notices.
INCREASING NUMBER OF NON-EMERGENCY CALLS AND FALSE ALARMS
A total of 187,607 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls were made last year – about 500 a day – a 2.8 per cent increase from the previous year and continuing an upward trend since 1998.
However, 9.6 per cent of the calls were non-emergencies and false alarms, SCDF said.
“This means that on average, SCDF responded to around 50 non-emergency and false alarm calls each day,” it said, reiterating that members of the public should call 995 only in an emergency.
People who do not require EMS assistance and to be taken to a hospital should seek treatment from their family doctor or at nearby clinics, it added.
If unsure whether a situation is an emergency, people can call 995 and describe the situation as best as they can, said Assistant Commissioner Abdul Razak, the director of SCDF’s Public Affairs Department.
“But some members of the public call us for toothaches and for persistent coughs. That doesn’t warrant our attention to begin with ... I think you can see the rationale for this approach we are taking,” he said.
FIRE ENGINES, RED RHINOS TO BE EXEMPTED FROM ROAD TRAFFIC ACT
SCDF also gave an update on the exemption of emergency vehicles from the Road Traffic Act.
On Dec 1, 2017, SCDF ambulances were formally exempted from Section 120(3) of the Road Traffic Act, allowing them to run red lights and make illegal U-turns when responding to life-threatening medical emergencies.
READ: Ambulances can legally run red lights and make unauthorised U-turns
SCDF said it is working towards extending the exemption to other emergency vehicles from Apr 1 this year. These include fire engines, red rhinos and fire medical vehicles, a hybrid of a fire engine and an ambulance.
Since the exemption was introduced, there have been no accidents involving ambulances and motorists have cooperated by giving way, SCDF said.
“In a medical emergency, every second saved has the potential to improve the patient's survival chances and health outcome,” it added.