Not all blocks have emergency lights

There was a power failure in my block in Tampines for about two hours on Aug 26.

During the failure, I noticed that many of the emergency lights at the staircases were not working.

I informed the town council the next day and wrote to the Housing Board, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

Repairs to these lights began nine days after the blackout.

I walked around Tampines and was shocked to discover that more than half of the blocks are not fitted or only partially fitted with emergency lights.

Some appeared not to be functioning.

During the last blackout on Tuesday, many of the blocks had no emergency lights on (147,000 affected by power disruption; Sept 19).

Ministers often talk about emergency preparation, but the Government appears to have failed to ensure that basic infrastructure is in place.

I have several questions about this matter that I hope the relevant authorities will answer.

First, the SCDF said there is no mandatory maintenance schedule for the emergency lights and it is up to the individual town councils to schedule maintenance.

This cannot be right as there must be a system in place to ensure that the emergency system is in working order. An annual inspection by a contractor should be made mandatory and carried out.

Second, as there has been a law requiring the fitting of emergency lights in all high-rise buildings for many years, why is this system not in place in so many blocks?

In Tampines, several hundred blocks appear to not be fully fitted with emergency lights.

In fact, the SCDF appears to be unable to provide an answer as to why so many blocks do not have this system.

Third, in private and commercial buildings, such a failure to follow the law would have resulted in severe penalties.

What are the penalties for those who have failed to implement these emergency lights?

Fourth, some of the blocks that have emergency lights do not have them in all staircases. The amount of light coming out of these fixtures is also sometimes too little.

In my block, as I highlighted to the SCDF, the emergency lights that were replaced do not have a test function. These lights should have such a button so that residents can ensure the light is functioning.

Thomas Reginald Vernon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2018, with the headline 'Not all blocks have emergency lights'. Print Edition | Subscribe