Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Civil Defence and Other Matters Bill [Bill no. 44/2018]
Sir, the intention of this Bill is to expand the legal powers of SCDF officers to respond to a wider range of incidents, especially during non-fire emergencies. This can only be a positive move and I stand in support of it.
However, I seek a few clarifications regarding the Bill.
Clarification of other examples of non-fire emergencies
First, the official press release by MHA states that such non-fire emergencies could include responding to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls.
For our better understanding, could the Minister provide further examples of other day-to-day emergencies, which do not constitute as a “civil defence emergency”?
Under clause 3, powers will be given to SCDF officers to enable them to act in good faith and with reasonable care to save lives and prevent injuries.
It would be helpful to receive clarification on these circumstances since the powers of SCDF officers are extensive, including breaking into private places and vehicles.
Volunteer ex-NS men
Secondly, clause 7 introduces a new scheme allowing ex-NS men who were enlisted in SCDF to continue serving as volunteers.
Could the Minister provide more information on this scheme?
For example, how would their roles differ from the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) – SCDF’s volunteer force set up in 2006? Would the ex-NS men volunteer under a separate scheme?
The Bill also states that the Minister may, from time to time, authorise that the NSmen be paid for their services. Under what circumstances will they be paid?
Installation of outdoor sirens
Third, I understand that the Bill also requires building owners to provide space and grant SCDF officers access to install, maintain, and repair the outdoor sirens that are part of the Public Warning System as well as other emergency devices.
I would like to ask about the rationale for this change – how were outdoor sirens installed in the past and what led to this proposed amendment in the law?
Sir the Public Warning System is important as it warns us, all of us of imminent threats that could endanger lives and property.
What is also equally important is a fire alarm system and we need to address the lack of central fire alarm systems at HDB blocks.
I appreciate that SCDF will be introducing a new requirement for all new residential units, and residential units undergoing works which impact fire safety, to install Home Fire Alarm Devices (HFADs).
It is good to provide early warning to the occupants of the affected unit, but what is also important is to provide warning to other residents in the block.
This will not only help all residents in the affected block but also the SCDF officers responding to fight the fire. Every second counts in a fire emergency and lives will be saved if people are aware of the fire early and can evacuate early. The dangers our SCDF officers face will also be reduced if people are evacuated early.
We also need to remember that it is not only the fire that kills but more often than not, also the smoke. While the fire might be contained in a unit, the smoke is not.
Sir I’ve raised this issue several times already and I sincerely hope that MHA will consider mandating central fire alarm systems at our HDB blocks similar to what is already present in condominiums.
Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications, I stand in support of this Bill.