Marina Bay Suites fire: Review fire safety guidelines, says coroner

Marina Bay Suites fire: Review fire safety guidelines, says coroner
Deadly fire: The Marina Bay Suites condominium.

The deaths of two security officers in a fire should serve as a wake-up call to the private security industry, said State Coroner Marvin Bay yesterday.

Mr Sim Lai Huat, 55, and Madam Sooria Kala Kaneseon, 33, were killed in a fire at Marina Bay Suites condominium in January.

Delivering his findings into their deaths, the coroner ruled out foul play, adding that it was a "tragic misadventure by an accidental fire".

The blaze was caused by cigarette embers and fuelled by sawdust, he said.

Their deaths prompted Mr Bay to call for a review of fire safety guidelines for security officers.

"Fire alarms will trip with a high degree of regularity. It can be expected that (a) majority are false alarms, but tragic consequences can ensue when unsuspecting security personnel encounter a hidden conflagration," he said.

While officers may feel pressured to investigate whenever a fire alarm sounds, Mr Bay suggested that they instead notify the authorities and wait for help.

Only firefighters and trained personnel should be allowed to take the fire lift to no more than two levels below a suspected fire to investigate, he added.

Bypass system

The incident also "underscores the hazards of laxity" of using the manual bypass system of the lifts.

During the Marina Bay Suites blaze, someone had hit a bypass switch while the fire was still raging, deactivating the lifts' emergency mode.

Mr Timothy Lok Wen Chau, technical director of Schindler Lifts Singapore, had suggested during the inquiry that the only way to prevent such incidents is to remove the bypass switch, as is the practice in Hong Kong.

Yesterday, Mr Bay said he would not go to that extent.

But Mr T. Mogan, president of the Security Association (Singapore) told The New Paper that it is not practical to expect security guards, especially the elderly, to take the stairs to detect a fire.

With about 40 per cent of Singapore's 60,000 security officers aged 50 and above, he said: "What if he takes the stairs up and gets a heart attack mid-way?"

Calling this incident a lesson on safety for all security officers, he said: "You can save others only if you are safe."

This article was published on Aug 21 in The New Paper.

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