Debate on ministries' budgets: Home Affairs

Parliament: Older buildings must soon upgrade fire safety measures

A woman died in a fire at a Jurong industrial building in 2017. The fire reportedly spread across multiple floors via the building's external cladding. Owners of older buildings currently do not have to abide by new fire safety requirements. But amen
A woman died in a fire at a Jurong industrial building in 2017. The fire reportedly spread across multiple floors via the building's external cladding. Owners of older buildings currently do not have to abide by new fire safety requirements. But amendments to the Fire Safety Act will change this.ST FILE PHOTO

There are also plans to beef up response to terror threat, tackle irresponsible driving

Owners of selected older buildings will soon have to put in place critical fire safety measures to improve their building's fire safety standards.

"High-risk" industrial buildings, public buildings and hospitals will be prioritised in this move as part of amendments to the Fire Safety Act, said the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling in Parliament yesterday.

"(We will) work closely with their owners to ensure that the new requirements are practicable," said Ms Sun, addressing a query from Ms Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) on how older buildings' fire safety standards should be improved.

The move will address a gap in the current system, where older buildings are not subject to changes in the Fire Code, which applies only to new buildings or those that undergo addition and alteration works. This means owners of older buildings currently do not have to abide by new fire safety requirements, such as installing home fire alarm devices on their premises.

On road safety, Ms Sun, who was speaking during the debate on the MHA's budget, outlined steps to tackle an upward trend in irresponsible driving.

She had announced last week that irresponsible motorists would face enhanced penalties, and could be penalised under new offences for dangerous and careless driving.

In response to a suggestion from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) of a tiered drink-driving approach to impose a lower alcohol limit on young or probationary drivers, Ms Sun said current laws do not prescribe differentiated alcohol limits to different classes of drivers because alcohol affects everyone differently.

The move will address a gap in the current system, where older buildings are not subject to new changes in the Fire Code, which applies only to new buildings or those that undergo addition and alteration works.

She said statistics also show that young or probationary drivers are not more likely to drink-drive than other drivers.

She said the Traffic Police does not enforce drink-driving offences based solely on whether one has violated the alcohol limit.

Instead, a person would be deemed to have been drink-driving as long as he is unable to control his vehicle after consuming alcohol, even if he does not exceed the prescribed statutory alcohol limit.

 
 

"In the end, we must recognise that the problem of dangerous driving cannot be curbed by regulations alone... Road safety is a shared responsibility, and we all need to play our part," she added.

On counter-terrorism efforts, Ms Sun said new initiatives under SGSecure - the national movement to mobilise Singaporeans to prevent and be prepared for a terrorist attack - will be rolled out in the coming months. They will include public road shows and formation of a network to mobilise people to respond to public incidents.

Under SGSecure, grassroots, community, religious, business and school leaders will also take part in a new pilot project to collaborate on emergency preparations.

"Through these new initiatives, we hope to make participation in SGSecure events more accessible, and to strengthen our whole-of-society response to the terror threat," said Ms Sun.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'Older buildings must soon upgrade fire safety measures '. Print Edition | Subscribe