Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong asked the Minister for Home Affairs (a) how many fires have broken out in the last three years in coffeeshops in HDB blocks with residential units located above them; (b) whether there are specific fire safety provisions pertaining to these coffeeshops; (c) whether the Ministry will consider strengthening the fire safety provisions for these coffeeshops including the mandatory installation of automatic sprinkler systems so as to protect residents living above the coffeeshops
Mr K Shanmugam: In the last three years, a total of 33 fires have broken out in coffeeshops in HDB blocks with residential units located above them. There were 14 such fires in 2013, 12 in 2014, and 7 in 2015.
The Fire Code, which is administered under the Fire Safety Act, stipulates fire safety requirements in buildings, including coffeeshops that are sited within HDB blocks. The requirements applicable to coffeeshops include the provision of ventilation openings for smoke dispersion, and separation of kitchens via fire-resistant walls if open flame-cooking appliances are used, in order to reduce the risk of fire spreading to other adjoining spaces. Alternatively the Fire Code requires that the kitchens be equipped with fire-extinguishing systems to minimise the risk of fire spreading. There are also a number of other risk mitigation requirements.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has been working closely with HDB to ensure that operators of food and beverage (F&B) outlets in HDB premises including coffeeshops, comply with the fire safety measures. The SCDF also partners the National Environment Agency (NEA) to advise NEA food establishment licensees to clean the exhaust systems and ductings in their regular maintenance regimes.
The SCDF takes a risk-based approach, assessing the benefit of any requirement, against the risks. The current SCDF requirements take into account that the fires at coffeeshops in HDB blocks over the past three years have been confined to the affected premises, with no fire spread to the residential units above the coffeeshops.