While officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) are working alongside others under challenging conditions to support Nepal's disaster relief efforts, it is particularly vexing for the organisation to have to investigate mayhem at a dormitory here allegedly involving SCDF personnel. From what evidence that has emerged, beds and mattresses were overturned and a shameful mess was created in what could be a training institute. Responding to widely circulated videos of the incident, the SCDF spokesman emphasised its determination to get to the bottom of it all and described it as an "isolated incident of this nature".
Whatever the outcome of the probe, the event serves as a reminder of how it does not take much for a leading organisation's name to be sullied by ill-judged acts of off-duty personnel, especially in the age of social media.
All who don the SCDF uniform can take much pride in the achievements of the corps, which goes back to the late 1800s. It has also participated in global rescue missions in places like Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea. The SCDF was the first in Asia to attain the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team classification, administered by the United Nations' International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.
The work of its officers and men can be hazardous as it responds to some 430 distress calls here daily, relating to fire and rescue incidents and emergency medical cases.
Public confidence in their ability to manage emergencies stands at a commendable 98 per cent, as borne out by an independent Public Perception Survey held last December. That faith is central to its objective of engaging the community so life-threatening situations and escalating risks can be dealt with even more swiftly.