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SCDF to trial placing fire extinguisher at lift lobby of every other HDB block

SCDF to trial placing fire extinguisher at lift lobby of every other HDB block

File photo of a fire extinguisher mounted on a wall. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: A new trial by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will give public housing residents better access to fire extinguishers during emergencies.

These extinguishers, which will be placed at lift lobbies, will be installed and maintained by SCDF, Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on Monday (Sep 12).

"SCDF is embarking on a trial with HDB, town councils and Temasek Foundation to place and maintain one fire extinguisher at a lift lobby of every two HDB blocks for use by residents during fire emergencies," he said.

Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said in a written reply to Parliament in February 2018 that HDB installs fire extinguishers at community spaces in common areas, in rooms housing utilities services and in commercial facilities.

The current number and prevalence of fire extinguishers at HDB blocks are unclear. 

"The SCDF encourages the installation of fire extinguishers in homes on a voluntary basis, instead of making it mandatory, as they are expensive and difficult to maintain," Mr Shanmugam wrote.

"If necessary, residents can also use the hose reels that are provided in the common areas of HDB blocks to put out incipient fires."

Associate Professor Faishal said SCDF, through public engagement programmes, has also been educating residents on the use of fire extinguishers.

"Through these platforms, SCDF encourages residents to install fire extinguishers in their premises on a voluntary basis and also shares information on the locations where hose reels can be found in the common areas," he added.

Assoc Prof Faishal was responding to questions from several MPs on the installation of fire warning devices in HDB flats, including one by Ms Rachel Ong (PAP-West Coast) on whether the ministry would consider placing fire extinguishers along the common corridor of specified floors for each HDB block.

On Aug 16, an HDB resident was killed after a fire broke out in a flat at Block 236, Jurong East Street 21. About a day later, a fire reignited in the master bedroom of the same flat despite firefighters carrying out damping-down operations - the application of water to burnt surfaces to prevent fires from rekindling.

Assoc Prof Faishal said on Monday that the number of fires in HDB estates continues to decrease annually, and that the fire fatality rate remains low.

There were three fire fatalities in 2021, all from residential fire incidents in Ang Mo Kio, Yishun and Woodlands.

HOME FIRE ALARM DEVICE

Ms Ong also asked for an update on the installation of home fire alarm devices for all HDB public rental flats, under an assistance scheme that provided free installation for these residents on a non-mandatory basis.

Since June 2018, all new homes and existing homes that undergo fire safety works have to install these devices, which warn occupants of a fire so that they can extinguish the flames or evacuate the flat.

However, it is not mandatory for existing residential premises not carrying out fire safety works to install the devices.

Assoc Prof Faishal replied that the scheme to install the devices in public rental flats was completed in June 2021, and that the take-up rate then was 75 per cent.

HDB will progressively install the devices in the remaining public rental flats when their tenants’ leases end, he said, adding that the Home Affairs Ministry currently does not intend to expand the scheme.

FIRE-RATED DOORS 

MP Foo Mee Har (PAP-West Coast) also asked if the policy on the installation of fire-rated doors at HDB flats can be reviewed to allow more pervasive use of such doors.

The Fire Code currently requires fire-rated entrance doors for residential units, except where the residential unit faces an external corridor, as such corridors have been assessed to sufficiently facilitate heat and smoke dissipation, Assoc Prof Faishal said.

Other fire safety requirements for residential buildings include adequate exit staircases for the swift evacuation of occupants, fire engine access roads and rising mains for firefighting operations.

Assoc Prof Faishal said SCDF regularly reviews the Fire Code with stakeholders from other Government agencies, industry and academia.

One example of a change in the code is a requirement for new residential buildings exceeding 24m in habitable height to have an apron wall or horizontal ledge on the building facade to minimise the risk of vertical fire spread, he said.

Ms Foo then highlighted that based on her residents' accounts, a "significant" number of households that have existing fire-rated doors are being offered non-fire-rated doors as replacements under the Home Improvement Programme (HIP).

She asked if these residents could choose to keep their fire-rated doors even if the prevailing Fire Code does not require the use of such doors.

Assoc Prof Faishal replied that the HIP offers fire-rated doors in accordance with the Fire Code, although residents who wish to keep these doors can do so at a subsidised cost.

"The resident will have the option to change his or her existing fire-rated door to a new one at a subsidised cost," he said.

"Residents may opt to install fire-rated doors even where this is not required under the Fire Code, but this would be at their own expense ... What is key is that if the Fire Code does not require fire-rated doors, these additional costs will not be covered under the HIP."

Source: CNA/hz(ac)

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