Ensure proper fire safety procedures in HDB blocks

The devastating fire in a London apartment block holds useful lessons for Singapore (At least 12 killed in fire at London tower block; June 15).

Owing to land constraints in Singapore, more and more commercial, hotel and residential buildings are high-rise. This raises the issues of fire prevention and evacuation procedures, as well as the construction materials used.

HDB blocks and executive condominiums (EC) do not seem to have fire alarms or fire sprinkler systems on each floor. Clutter is also common along corridors.

It is compulsory for public buildings to hold fire drills, but there is no such provision for HDB blocks and ECs. There is also no clear evacuation procedure.

One can only imagine the panic and stampede that would take place if a fire were to break out.

Perhaps the town councils could appoint a fire safety manager for high-rise blocks to ensure that fire safety standards and prevention measures are adhered to.

It is important to conduct daily checks, prepare emergency response plans and conduct fire drills to ensure that residents are familiar with the escape routes.

Town councils must prepare fire safety guidebooks for residents.

Attention must also be given to the building materials.

Are fire-resistant or retardant materials used in, for instance, cables, meters and lift mechanisms?

Are these materials non-toxic when they burn?

Smoke can cause choking and lower the visibility, making it difficult for people to escape a fire.

Are there regulations on the types of material used for renovations?

Renovation contractors who are caught removing fire-rated materials or replacing them with cheap non-fire-rated ones must be taken to task with heavy penalties and be barred from doing renovation work in HDB flats and ECs.

Fire in high-rise residential buildings can spread unexpectedly fast, trapping people in their homes.

There must be no breach of fire safety rules.

Francis Cheng

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline Ensure proper fire safety procedures in HDB blocks. Subscribe