KPE fire was a good thing. Here’s why.

By September 2, 2017Current

TL;DR – Better buck up our emergency preparedness now.

A few days ago, a taxi caught fire in the KPE tunnel.


Drivers were advised to drive out of the tunnel via the nearest exit if they can. If they can’t, they were advised to turn off your engine and walk to the nearest emergency exit. Because of the congestion, emergency vehicles took some time to reach the burning vehicle.

Thankfully, two heroes emerged. Mr Syed Abdillah Zain Alhabshee and his friend Fuad Aziz were driving through the KPE tunnel when they heard an “extremely loud” explosion. Both of them are very experienced in handling emergency situations. Mr Syed Abdillah is the director of First Medic Training and Ambulance Services, while Mr Fuad is a manager at Medlink Services, a company that, amongst other things, provides first aid training.

Upon seeing the fire, the two friends sprung into action. They grabbed the nearest hose to fight the fire. By the time emergency vehicles got to the scene, the duo had already put out the fire. It is quite likely that the quick action my Mr Syed Abdillah and Mr Fuad was the reason why there weren’t any injuries.

Emergency services get criticised

As expected, the emergency services got criticised for the perceived tardiness. A letter to the forum detailed the apparent shortcomings of the response of the emergency services. Apparently, the writer of the letter, Mr Sattar, could only get through to the police 999 hotline after several attempts. When he finally got through, the police officers were apparently clueless of the situation in the tunnel. They took 10 minutes to get back to Mr Sattar, informing him about the fire.

Not only that, according to Mr Sattar, there were no police officers on scene to control traffic and manage the chaos. Mr Sattar pointed out that the emergency services looked like they weren’t properly prepared to handle the situation. He opined that the situation would have been disastrous if the incident was more serious.

Have plans, but can execute?

We are sure that the government has multiple plans in place to handle emergencies. We are sure that the relevant agencies conduct regular exercises. However, many of these exercises are carefully scripted. Are these exercises truly realistic? That leaves us to wonder whether the emergency services are really adequately trained to handle the chaos of real emergencies.

Sure, there might be many excuses reasons that could have made it difficult for the police from immediately knowing what happened. Sure, many things could have prevented the emergency services from getting to the scene earlier. But such chaos is to be expected in any emergency situations. If this is the level of response from emergency services for this incident, then what can we expect from our emergency services should there be a terrorist attack?

Incidentally, here’s a useful video.


We all need to buck up

We’ve been told to be prepared for a terrorist attack on Singapore. We’re told it’s not if, but when. That being the case, we had better buck up.

Our emergency services should reflect on this incident, find out what they can improve – how can they be better trained, what sort of systems need to be put in place, how can the processes be fine-tuned.

And it’s not just our emergency services. The actions of Mr Syed Abdillah and Mr Fuad showed that each and everyone of us have a part to play when emergencies arise. We ought to get some basic skills in emergency response. For example, we should all learn basic first aid and CPR, as well as learn how to use a fire extinguisher and, if possible, how to use a fire hose.

Let’s hope that when we are faced with a bigger incident, we would have learnt from this KPE fire incident and be better prepared. After all, it’s not if, but when we will have to handle a terrorist attack.


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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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