COVID-19’s impact on the world has been unprecedented, affecting finance, commerce, healthcare, including the lives and livelihoods of people on a scale not seen in modern times. Besides its extensive impact, COVID-19 has underscored the need for us to be agile, flexible and adaptable in responding quickly to an evolving pandemic, as seen with the emergence of COVID-19 variants which sent renewed shockwaves across the world.
Recently, there have been a few serious high-rise building fires overseas where tragically, lives were lost as occupants found themselves trapped and unable to evacuate safely. These incidents serve to reinforce the importance of how effective and robust fire safety systems can potentially save lives during emergencies. Members of the fire safety industry and building planners play a key role in addressing these matters upstream during the building design and construction phases. Fire safety sets the critical cornerstones for building safety as it addresses fire risks, prevention of fires from escalating, and importantly, enable the evacuation of occupants during emergencies.
Technologies are always evolving and developing. Keeping pace with new developments and emerging technologies will help keep respective building codes updated and relevant. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) actively reviews the Fire Code every five years by working closely with stakeholders in the building industry to identify latest trends in civil protection and fire safety. In addition, SCDF’s adoption of the performance-based approach towards fire safety has allowed building designers and architects considerable flexibility in designing buildings creatively and innovatively using fire engineering principles, calculations and/or appropriate software modelling tools to achieve the intentions of the Fire Code.
The digital Fire Code introduction by SCDF was another initiative aimed at improving convenience to building industry professionals. Features such as in-depth illustration of Fire Code provisions, intuitive search and cross-referencing, etc. contribute positively to overall quality and productivity of the industry.
SCDF is also firmly committed to translate research into application by collaborating with the academia. For instance, SCDF works closely with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University to assess and validate emerging research, technology and innovation on fire safety engineering and building design and turn them, where relevant, into applicable industry practices. Such efforts, which are important for a pro-business environment, have led to SCDF being conferred the Pro-Enterprise Survey Recognition Award in 2021.
At the frontlines, SCDF is constantly looking out to leverage technological advancements to enhance our operational readiness. One of the highlights in our transformation journey is our very first Smart fire station – Punggol Fire Station. Apart from the digital systems and smart wearables which our emergency responders will use, this latest state-of-the art fire station utilises an Integrated Building Management System (IBMS) that offers automated control of the building’s sub-systems such as air-conditioning, mechanical ventilation fans and lighting, thereby optimising energy consumption. The fire station is also equipped with an automated control access that uses analytics such as facial recognition, motion sensing, and vehicular licence plate reading. This translates into greater precision in identification, quicker alerts during emergency activations and improved security for the premises. Being environmentally friendly is a necessary consideration for a sustainable future and, deservingly, Punggol Fire Station attained the Green Mark Gold Award in March 2020.
Another key highlight for SCDF’s transformation journey is the development of the Emergency Responders’ Fitness Conditioning & Enhancement Lab (EẋCEL). Since end 2021, EẋCEL is being progressively operationalised at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA). In my message for FiSAC 2017, I had shared on how CDA will soon bring emergency response training to a new and unprecedented level. I am happy to announce that with EẋCEL, the future is here today. We are now applying human performance analytics to optimise our SCDF responders’ potential and peak operational performance through an evidence-based approach. Through continual scientific research, testing and assessment, EẋCEL will monitor, assess, and enhance different aspects of emergency responders’ optimal performance and improve safety.
On that note, I look forward to welcoming all participants namely, fire chiefs, disaster managers and practitioners, building and fire safety professionals, industry experts as well as members of the academia, to FiSAC 2022 in Singapore which seeks New Breakthroughs in Fire Safety, Sustainability and Emergency Response, as the theme aspires.