HDB fire: Illegal ads prevented firemen from locating fire lift switch

We refer to the letter from Mr Richard Chien-Ming Kuppusamy (Why were fire lifts not working in new HDB block?; June 26).

The HDB has investigated the case at Block 104D Canberra Street, including reviewing the lift log records at the time of the fire.

The records show that the block's fire detection device was activated by smoke from the affected unit, which automatically brought the block's two lifts (one of which is a fire lift) to the ground floor. This is a safety design measure to ensure that residents evacuate safely through the staircase, in the event of a fire.

When the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters arrived on the scene, they noticed that the LED display panels on both lifts were not lit and assumed that the lifts were not functioning.

They were also not able to locate the fire lift switch panel to activate the fire lift, as there were many unauthorised advertisements pasted on the door frame.

To ensure the swift evacuation of the residents trapped in the burning unit, the firefighters decided to use the staircase. They successfully rescued two boys trapped in the unit, and extinguished the fire within 15 minutes.

As the fire lift was in working condition, it was subsequently used by the police to assist in the evacuation of a wheelchair-bound woman from the 11th floor. The advertisements on the lift door frame have since been removed.

On the provision of refuge floors and sprinklers in new super high-rise HDB blocks, we wish to clarify that all HDB blocks are designed to meet the prevailing Fire Code requirements.

HDB blocks exceeding 40 storeys are required to have an additional fire lift (for developments with plans submitted to the SCDF on or after July 15, 2013), as well as one designated refuge floor at 20-storey intervals (for developments with plans submitted to the SCDF on or after April 12, 2006).

The Fire Code requires a sprinkler system for the refuge floor only if there are non-residential rooms located on the same floor.

Leslie Williams (Lieutenant-Colonel)

Senior Assistant Director (Public Affairs Department)

Singapore Civil Defence Force

Tan Hwee Yong (Ms)

Director (Project Development & Management)

Housing & Development Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2018, with the headline 'HDB fire: Illegal ads prevented firemen from locating fire lift switch'. Print Edition | Subscribe