In today’s ever-evolving operating landscape, the life-saving community must stay future-ready to better respond to the challenges ahead. Singapore is a small city-state, densely populated in a very urban operating environment. There is also a diverse number of industries on this small island state and this adds complexity to emergency response operations of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
The threat of terrorism remains and the growth of key economic sectors have led to the emergence of new safety risks. There is also the impact of an ageing population. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged sixty-five and above, up from one in eight today.
This paper highlights the impetus and tools underpinning the SCDF transformation journey to address the demands of current and future operating landscapes.
Fires have been on a downward trend, declining from 4793 to 3871 cases over the past ten years. HazMat incidents have been relatively constant. Rescue incidents, on the other hand, is on an incline from 1638 to 2388 cases. The most notable is the sharp rise in demand for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) – from 117,896 in 2008 to 182,502 in 2017.
SCDF’s transformation journey
Broadly, the operations statistics and the evolving Singapore landscape translate into four driving forces for SCDF to review and re-think its emergency response strategies and approach. The SCDF has to transform itself in terms of the way it organises itself and change its concept of operations. SCDF seeks to future-proof itself to better address the increasing demand for our emergency services, a tight labour market, higher public expectations and an ageing population requiring greater medical care.
SCDF has mapped out a three-pronged approach in its transformation journey – (1) leveraging technology and innovation; (2) building a robust fire safety regime; and (3) envisaging to build “A Nation of Lifesavers” by 2025. The mainstay of this journey comprises the use of technology and innovation as a force multiplier and a paradigm shift in the relationship between the SCDF and the community.
Leveraging technology and innovation
Data analytics is being employed to optimise and deploy emergency resources closer to where incidents are likely to happen based on time of the day, the day of the week, etc. Broadly, this forward deployment and response entails terrain mapping, predictive analysis and resource planning of current assets.
Sense-making capabilities will be enhanced by building an integrated command & control system to integrate the three tiers of SCDF’s frontline, tactical and strategic systems for more effective communications, command and control. Medical triaging will be done for emergency calls made to the Operations Centre before emergency resources are dispatched. This allows SCDF to prioritise its calls and provide a faster and enhanced response for life-threatening emergencies.
Through technology, an arsenal of new fire-fighting, rescue, EMS, HazMat, decontamination and even aerial surveillance capabilities have been developed to boost the frontline operational capabilities. These include new support vehicles to provide comprehensive and more effective operational support on the ground, as well as drones to provide SCDF with an aerial situational picture to enhance command and control.
In harnessing technology as a force multiplier, SCDF will continue to innovate and invest in the integration of robotics and other cutting-edge technologies to enable our emergency responders to operate at a high level of proficiency and efficiency during operations.
Training facilities will also be redeveloped to allow for multi-faceted, complex and challenging fire-fighting, rescue and EMS training. For instance, various simulation technologies will be used to support strategic and tactical levels training needs. Additionally, a high-tech fire laboratory will be developed for fire investigation and analysis and to support our evidence-based approach to fire safety design.
There will also be an Emergency Responders Fitness Conditioning and Enhancement Laboratory which will employ an advanced science-based approach to enhance the physical performance of emergency responders. The design of the new training grounds will provide added training value for returning international participants to SCDF.
Last but not least, SCDF will leverage the advancements made in A.I. to support various functions including emergency calls management. Automated checks on building fire safety plans are also being planned.
Robust fire safety regime
SCDF collaborates regularly with stakeholders such as building professionals to review fire safety regulations with the view of seeking improvement to fire safety requirements while managing the cost of regulatory compliance. For instance, evidence-based considerations have been incorporated in the latest Fire Code.
The Fire Code has also been digitised to make it more accessible, with interactive features for easy navigation and cross-referencing. It also merges explanations and illustrations in the Fire Safety Handbook so that readers can gain access to the information easily.
Another key change to the 2018 Fire Code is the inclusion of Video Image Fire Detection System which is used to complement conventional detectors in an electrical fire alarm system. To enhance home fire safety, SCDF requires Home Fire Alarm Devices to be installed within residential homes, primarily for new residential homes and existing homes carrying out fire safety works. The 2018 Fire Code also supports the adoption of new and green technologies that are productivity-driven such as Mass Engineered Timber and solar photovoltaic installations.
Community first responders
An Emergency Preparedness Centre will be built to better prepare, train and equip the community with the right skills and knowledge to augment SCDF emergency responders in future operations.
SCDF has a 3-pronged approach to cater to the different levels of community involvement. The first level is to ‘Engage the Concerned Citizen’ by sharing basic awareness of emergency preparedness. Such concerned citizens would know how to seek help and get out of harm’s way in times of an emergency.
The second level is to ‘Enable the Bystander Responder’ by training individuals in basic Life-Saving Skills to enable them to be involved in the chain of saving lives. The third level is to ‘Empower the Active Responder’ where the Community First Responder (CFR) is trained in basic life-saving skills and stands ready to be activated, whenever incidents occur. The case for community response is real as a timely response to cardiac arrest victims, for instance, will improve survival rates.
As part of the initiative, the availability of AEDs in public places has been increased. SCDF has also worked with taxi drivers to have them participate as first responders. Since November 2015, 100 taxis are equipped with AEDs and the taxi drivers trained to respond to medical emergencies should they be in close proximity to the victim. This programme to ‘mobilise’ AEDs through taxis is a first-of-its-kind in Southeast Asia and plans are underway to extend this initiative to more taxi companies including other modes of public transport.
In April 2015, SCDF launched the myResponder mobile app which has over 100,000 downloads as at the end of October 2018. The app utilises geo-location technology to alert trained CFRs to the occurrence of cardiac arrest cases within a radius of about 400m; and also points them to the nearest available AEDs.
The SCDF transformation involves a paradigm shift in the SCDF-community response to an emergency situation. This underscores the fact that it is not SCDF who can provide the first response, but rather the community who are already in the vicinity of an emergency situation. As such, community members of all ages will be encouraged and enabled to serve as CFRs, to augment the SCDF.
It is envisioned that this SCDF-Community partnership will lead to better operational outcomes as everyone plays their part towards achieving the Vision of “A Nation of Lifesavers”.
For more information, go to www.scdf.gov.sg