Tuesday 21 February 2012

SCDF Guidelines on corridor clutter welcomed

SCDF guidelines will make life easier for emergency services
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 20 Feb 2012

TOWN councils could find it easier to persuade HDB residents to remove clutter from common corridors after islandwide guidelines were introduced for the first time.

The rules aim to reduce the number of large objects such as pieces of furniture that are left outside flats.

These can be dangerous as they get in the way of firefighters and paramedics racing to emergencies.

Until now, councils have generally had their own guidelines. The standardised ones were drawn up by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

They state, for example, that no objects should be left in corridors less than 1.2m wide. Smaller items such as clothes racks and potted plants should not be placed on staircase landings.

Members of Parliament and paramedics said they welcome the move because it will make life easier for the emergency services.

Madam Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC, said town councils often have trouble persuading residents to remove their clutter. Specific guidelines will give weight to their advice, she added.

But Madam Halimah said that despite the guidelines, getting residents to remove items they have left outside their homes for years will remain a challenge. While most will listen, there are bound to be some who will not.

Jurong Town Council's general manager Ho Thian Poh said it is important that corridors are not blocked. Council staff are always on the lookout for obstruction during their weekly rounds.

Each officer takes care of 20 to 25 blocks within the estate. Mr Ho said they advise residents to move their things if they are causing a problem, and also conduct follow-up checks.

Mr Alvin Yeo, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said residents can report their neighbours if they disobey the guidelines, which were issued to councils last month.

He added that the rules will save time by helping to avoid disagreements over what is or is not acceptable.

Bukit Panjang MP Teo Ho Pin said: 'I think it's good that the authorities have come up with such guidelines using their experience. The town council will be working with the residents; we hope they can understand the importance of such safety.'

Paramedics also welcomed the move, which will hopefully make their work less of an obstacle course. Mr Timothy Lim, the fleet manager of private operator Lentor Ambulance, said he is glad to see that something is being done about this age-old problem.

He added that bamboo poles and furniture often get in paramedics' way. 'Some of these protruding things can hurt patients on a stretcher, or make the paramedics trip,' said Mr Lim, who has been in the industry for 13 years. 'It's dangerous.'

He said he hopes these rules will one day be applied to private apartment blocks, where paramedics face the same problems.

Mr Christopher Bek, director of operations for private ambulance operator Medic Network, said the guidelines will definitely help as long as town councils can enforce them.

But although residents understand the rationale behind the rules, some say they will be hard to follow.

Housewife Fauziah Fasulludi, 36, said she puts her clothes rack, shoe rack and bicycles outside because there is no space inside her three-room flat in an old block in Jurong.

Madam Jayalakshme Maniam, who also lives in an old block in the area, said it is difficult to move potted plants elsewhere. 'My mother has been growing these plants for about 30 years, and this is her hobby,' said the 45-year-old housewife. 'Furthermore, the plants will have no sunlight if I bring them in.'

Mr Lim said residents who hold these attitudes might change their minds if they were the ones facing an emergency.

He said: 'If it is their loved ones on the stretcher, they may get angry if there are obstacles in the way of the paramedics.'

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