The managing committees of condominiums are responsible for ensuring that fire safety equipment is functional, said Singapore’s Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling. Simply hiring a third party to inspect the equipment does not absolve such committees from liabilities under the Fire Safety Act, she added. This means the Management Corporation Strata Title (MCST) committee can be taken to task for faulty equipment such as fire hose reels, even if the equipment had been certified to be in working order by an external auditor.
Ms Sun, who was responding to Ms Cheryl Chan (Fengshan), noted that for condominiums with higher fire safety risks, the MCST committee has to appoint professional engineers to conduct audits of fire safety measures to renew the buildings’ fire certificates each year.
Such buildings are those with a habitable height of more than 24m, which require special fire protection systems as fire engines’ equipment may not be able to access higher floors as easily. But this does not absolve MCST committees from liability if the systems fail during an emergency, added Ms Sun.
Ms Chan then questioned the fairness of holding MCST committees responsible, since these are run by resident volunteers who are not professional estate managers. To this, Ms Sun said that when such equipment is found to be faulty, the Singapore Civil Defence Force will issue a Fire Hazard Abatement Notice, which serves as a warning.
So, in the event the external audits are not accurate, MCST committees will have a chance to rectify the problems, she added. Last year, Jurong-Clementi Town Council (JCTC) held its contractor contractually responsible for failing to ensure the hose reel system at a block of flats in Bukit Batok was operationally ready. The problem was discovered after a fire broke out on Nov 1 at Block 210A Bukit Batok Street 21 and SCDF officers found the hose reels dry.
The town council received Fire Hazard Abatement Notices over the incident. Its investigations later showed that an employee of its contractor had left a pump switch in the wrong mode, resulting in water supply to the hose reels being cut off.
The cabinet that the hose reels were in had also been padlocked by one of JCTC’s property officers, and firemen had to break the locks. The property officer was redeployed and his two supervisors penalised.