Equip HDB flats with fire escape ladders

Most fire emergency guidelines put forth by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) assume that a fire in a housing block can be kept under control or that the block's occupants can be rescued.

They do not include many contingency plans for situations in which fires rage out of control or when occupants are unable to be rescued.

Hence, I share the concerns expressed by Mr Francis Cheng (Ensure proper fire safety procedures in HDB blocks; June 19).

When a major fire rages out of control, the best course of action would be to evacuate the building.

However, many HDB blocks have only one or two staircases. It is probable that all of the escape routes may be cut off by fire.

If that happens, residents are condemned to almost certain death, as they would be trapped in their homes.

Some may even attempt to jump out of windows.

When a major fire rages out of control, the best course of action would be to evacuate the building.
However, many HDB blocks have only one or two staircases. It is probable that all of the escape routes may be cut off by fire.

A simple solution is to equip every HDB flat with fire escape ladders which occupants can use to climb down in case of a major fire.

Escape ladders can be installed cheaply and are already in use in many multi-storey buildings around the world.

They can also be placed at service balconies or ledges to minimise their effect on the building's facade.

Steps can easily be taken to prevent burglars from using these ladders.

Equipping HDB flats with escape ladders provides occupants on a floor with multiple routes of escape.

Having these ladders would mean that occupants can easily evacuate their flats, even if a fire cuts off access to the front door.

Finally, the ladders can provide another option for firefighters to access and rescue occupants trapped in a building.

Abel Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Equip HDB flats with fire escape ladders'. Print Edition | Subscribe