SINGAPORE - A 12-storey block of rental flats in Bedok South has fire extinguishers on every floor, the first Housing Board block to be equipped for emergencies in this manner.
The initiative for Block 12, Bedok South Ave 2, which has 308 flats, was mooted by the Bedok Community Emergency and Engagement Committee, which is made up of grassroots volunteers, after a unit in the block caught fire on July 9 last year and affected 12 neighbouring units.
Close to 200 residents living in the one-room flats were evacuated, and six were conveyed to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, an MP for East Coast GRC, announced the pilot project at an Emergency Preparedness Day in his Bedok ward on Sunday morning (Oct 30).
Mr Lim noted the layout of the block, with an enclosed common corridor where units face each other on a long stretch.
"If there is a fire, it can be a big hazard for our residents," he said, referring to how a fire can spread easily.
A total of 24 fire extinguishers, or two on every floor, have been installed at lift landings in Block 12 this month, and 40 residents have been trained on how to use them and how to respond in a fire.
Staff at an activity centre on the ground floor of the block have also been trained to use the equipment.
Madam Lim Bee Hiang, 61, a part-time coffeeshop assistant, welcomed the fire extinguishers, saying they give her peace of mind.
"I've seen three fires in this block in my 12 years living here," she said.
"You have to learn how to take care of yourself. Last time, we could only run if we see smoke in the corridor. But if a fire breaks out now, we can immediately react to it."
Having the necessary equipment is just the first step of being prepared to deal with an emergency or a crisis, said Mr Lim.
"The second step is to prepare our residents to use these facilities. We are reaching out to residents to ensure that in every household, there is one person who knows how to take care of themselves," he said.
"At the same time, within the block, there must be some residents who know how to take care of others," he added.
There is also one automated external defibrillator (AED) in every two HDB blocks in the Bedok estate, used to treat sudden cardiac arrests.
The Emergency Preparedness Day and measures to train residents for disasters are part of the SG Secure effort to sensitise, train, and mobilise Singaporeans to prevent terror incidents and respond to them as one united people.
Mr Lim also joined residents in an emergency exercise on Sunday that saw a "shooting attack" at a crowded market and food centre in Bedok.
The 'live' scenario is meant to familiarise residents with how to respond in the event of an attack.
Residents also learnt how to use a fire extinguisher and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the injured, at various booths set up outside the market.