Recommendations made to improve operational safety & 'command-and-control' following death of NSF in fire: Shanmugam

The safety of all SCDF personnel is of paramount importance to us, said Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam.

Khine Zin Htet | November 08, 2023, 02:05 PM



Following the death of National Servicemen (NSF) Sergeant 1 (SGT1) Edward Go during a fire operation in 2022, a review of firefighting procedures, equipment, and training was detailed in a written parliamentary reply by Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam on Nov. 7, 2023

Responding to questions posed by Member of Parliament Murali Pillai, Shanmugam said that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had convened an Internal Review Group to conduct a detailed After-Action Review (AAR) into the firefighting operation that cost Go his life.

The AAR covered SCDF’s firefighting procedures, operational safety, equipping, and training, he added.

IRG audited firefighting operations

The Internal Review Group audited over 260 firefighting operations in 2021 and 2022 to assess whether the operations were conducted professionally and safely and whether the commanders on the ground exercised adequate command and control.

The review group also scrutinised 61 cases that required more than two firefighting water jets which suggest they are more challenging incidents.

The audit found that while the operations had largely been conducted competently and safely, there were occasional individual lapses, such as officers not wearing their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) properly or not using the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) during damping down operations, Shanmugam said.

To improve operational safety and "command-and-control", Shanmugam said that the the review group had made some recommendations:

Staging and breathing apparatus control officer (BACO) control point

A staging and breathing apparatus control officer (BACO) control point was established on Sep. 18, 2023, for all residential unit fires. It was previously only established for major fire incidents.

The control point helps ground commanders to track the deployment of firefighters, as well as to check on the PPE of the teams before they are sent to the scene of the fire, Shanmugam said.

Issuance of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) to all Section Commanders

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) will also be issued to all Section Commanders by March 2024 instead of only for those holding the appointment of Deputy Rota Commander and higher.

The wider deployment of BWCs aims to enhance the quality of post-incident AARs.

"By mid-2024 when the camera is capable of livestreaming to the SCDF Operations Centre, it will also enhance sensemaking during ongoing incidents," Shanmugam said.

New generation breathing apparatus

A new generation of breathing apparatus with telemetry capabilities will also be deployed progressively starting in mid-2024.

Upon its introduction next year, this technology will enable the transmission of data regarding the remaining air capacity in a firefighter's breathing apparatus to the BACO control point for monitoring.

Additionally, the apparatus will include a Personnel Distress Device (PDD) that is automatically activated when the air tank is turned on, in contrast to the current PDD, which requires manual activation by the firefighter.

Should the firefighter remain motionless for a certain period, the PDD will automatically trigger an alert at the BACO control point, allowing officers to take appropriate actions, Shanmugam said.

Enhancements to the selection process for ground commanders

To enhance the selection process for ground commanders, the SCDF is also conducting a comprehensive review of the training of ground commanders.

This includes enhancements to the training syllabus to underline the importance of command responsibility and introducing exercises to stress-test the command-and-control capabilities of the commanders, Shanmugam said.

Ensuring safety of NSF firefighters

In response to Murali's question on how the safety of full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), in particular, as firefighters, are ensured, Shanmugam said that only NSFs who are certified to be medically fit and are of physical employment status "A", "B1" or "B2" will be deployed as firefighters.

Additionally, he said firefighting training at the Civil Defence Academy (CDA) utilises "live" fire simulators for trainees to have more relevant and realistic training.

The training curriculum is reviewed regularly to ensure currency and robustness, he added.

Even after graduation from CDA, training continues to be an integral part of a firefighter’s daily routine, he noted.

Post-graduation from CDA, ongoing training remains integral to a firefighter's daily routine. They participate in exercises and drills during each shift to maintain role familiarity, individual fitness, and other competencies.

CDA also conducts annual proficiency tests to ensure their skills and fitness continue to meet required standards.

In concluding his reply, Shanmugam reiterated that the government is working to ensure the safety of all SCDF personnel.

"The safety of all SCDF personnel, whether they are Regulars, NSFs, NSmen or Volunteers, is of paramount importance to us. We will continue to make sure that they are well trained and properly equipped to carry out their duties, safely and effectively."


Go was one of the firefighters involved in a firefighting operation at an HDB block at Henderson Road in Bukit Merah on Dec. 8, 2022.

He was found unconscious and later pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy later revealed his cause of death to be "suffocation due to depleted air cylinder".

According to the police's investigations, Go's superior allegedly did not inform anyone when he left Go alone in the HDB unit to fight the fire.

Go's superior was charged in court on Oct. 16, 2023, with causing grievous hurt by a rash act which endangers life or the personal safety of others.

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