SINGAPORE - The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will institute a non-dispatch policy next year to cope with increasing demand for emergency services.
The 995 operations centre will assess emergency calls and send out ambulances only when they are deemed to be actual emergencies.
In his speech at the SCDF annual workplan seminar on Friday (June 10), Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim said calls for emergency medical services (EMS) continue to rise.
The SCDF responded to more than 210,000 EMS calls last year, a 12 per cent rise from 2020.
About 90 per cent of the calls in both years were emergency calls.
Said Prof Faishal: “SCDF is working on a non-dispatch policy for cases triaged to be non-emergencies by the 995 operations centre.
“This will ensure that our EMS resources are optimised for emergencies only, as committing emergency resources to non-emergency cases will deprive those in need.”
The force said more details on how it will respond to calls that are assessed to be non-emergencies will be revealed next year.
At the seminar, the SCDF unveiled its new Red Rhinos with enhanced firefighting abilities, which will be on the roads from the end of this month.
The Red Rhino, also known as a Light Fire Attack Vehicle, is the sixth rendition of Singapore’s iconic firefighting vehicle since it was first introduced in 2000.
The new rendition will come equipped with a fire blanket for fighting vehicle fires and trolleys that carry compressed air foam – a more effective extinguishing medium than water.
The 50 litres of foam it carries can extinguish fires even before the arrival of a fire engine, said SCDF.
By the end of 2023, these vehicles will also be equipped with the second edition of the Red Rhino robots, which were first unveiled in 2018 to reduce manpower needed to respond to fires.
These robots are able to move easily in confined spaces to carry out autonomous firefighting using water jets.
The SCDF also launched a new research and training facility on Friday, jointly developed with the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, which will use simulation and other technology to train emergency responders.
In his speech, Prof Faishal said the SCDF has stayed at the cutting edge to improve its capabilities.
“This allows (the force) to achieve world-class outcomes, despite it being one of the smallest emergency services worldwide,” he added.
The SCDF will make other moves to keep abreast of operational needs, he said.
Sensors that detect hazardous materials (HazMat) will be installed island-wide for early warnings, for instance, when there is a chemical plant leak.
This will allow SCDF to respond faster to such incidents and reduce its dependence on information from the public.
The new training facility launched on Friday, known as emergency responders’ fitness conditioning and enhancement lab (Excel), will use technology to help officers get stronger physically and mentally.
This includes using simulations to treat those with post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as brain activity tracking technology to evaluate performance.
The latter will be done at one of the facility’s five labs. Data gathered from an experienced officer can be compared with that of a younger one, for example, to map out areas of improvement.
In another part of the facility, a chamber with a temperature range of -10 deg C to 80 deg C trains responders to work in challenging conditions.
And to safeguard against injury, cameras and sensors tracking muscle activation patterns in the biomechanics lab check if an individual is using the proper method to lift heavy equipment.
SCDF’s Civil Defence Academy director Alan Chow Mun Keong said: “The establishment of Excel is a testament to the Home Team’s commitment to setting the standards and charting frontiers in optimising responder performance.”
Red Rhino's new features
A fleet of 16 new Red Rhinos will soon join the SCDF in its firefighting missions.
Designed by the force in collaboration with engineering firm Hope Technik, these are some of its new features.
1. Second-generation Red Rhino Robot
A firefighting robot will be fitted into each vehicle by the end of next year. Its compact size allows it to move easily in small spaces and an unmanned water jet can put out fires remotely.
The robot also has a heat imaging camera and video-streaming abilities that allow crew to assess a situation while maintaining a safe distance.
It can also be fitted with accessories to provide logistical support. For instance, its monitor can be disassembled and replaced with a basket for a stretcher.
2. Compressed air foam trolleys
The vehicle has two trolleys carrying 50 litres of compressed air foam in total. This is more than five times the nine litres of foam that a firefighter carries in his backpack.
3. Fire blanket
This equipment helps with fighting vehicle fires by cutting off oxygen supply and "suffocating" the flames.
4. Battery-operated hydraulic forcible entry tool
This device to pry open doors and remove other barriers has been upgraded so it can be operated by a single firefighter instead of two.