Singapore Civil Defence Force

Singapore Infopedia


The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is a uniformed organisation that provides emergency services to the nation both during peacetime and in crises. It serves not only as a fire-fighting authority, but also provides first-aid and rescue services, and acts as an educator on fire safety procedures.1

The SCDF was formed with the launch of the National Civil Defence Plan in 1982, and originally operated under the Singapore Police Force.2 Following the enactment of the Civil Defence Act in 1986, the SCDF became an independent organisation under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).3 After the Hotel New World disaster in 1986 and the Pulau Merlimau oil rig fires in 1988, the MHA merged the SCDF with the Singapore Fire Service on 15 April 1989 in order to streamline rescue services.4

The SCDF is made up of regular officers, full-time National Servicemen and Operationally Ready National Servicemen.It organises emergency preparedness programmes and disaster management activities, which are governed by three main laws, namely the Civil Defence Act of 1986, the Fire Safety Act of 1993 and the Civil Defence Shelter Act of 1997.6 

The Force’s role during peacetime is the provision of emergency services, such as fire-fighting, rescue and ambulance services.7 In addition, it builds up and maintains its operational capability and readiness; strives to increase public awareness and participation in civil defence activities; and formulates and enforces regulations on fire safety and civil defence shelter matters.

The SCDF has a network of stations across Singapore. It also maintains an on-going programme with Asia-Pacific and European countries to exchange views and experiences on emergency preparedness and disaster management, and participates in rescue operations in the region.9

In June 2001, the Mountbatten Fire Post in Kallang became Singapore’s first fire post. The fire post, equipped with an ambulance and a light fire-attack vehicle, is part of a plan aimed at cutting response time to emergency calls.10 The United Nations World Fire Statistics Centre ranked Singapore top for fire-safety in 2001.11

In December 2001, the SCDF opened a Civil Defence Heritage Gallery at the Central Fire Station on Hill Street. The gallery traces the history of the Force, including the fire-fighting and civil defence developments in Singapore from the late 1800s to the present day.12


Joycelyn Hwang

1. Chong Chee Kin, “Arson Incidents Cost $1M Last Year,” Straits Times, 6 February 2002, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Civil Defence Force, Civil Defence in Singapore 1939–1985 (Singapore: Singapore Civil Defence Force, 1985), 61. (Call no. RSING 363.35095957 CIV)
2. Singapore Civil Defence Force, Civil Defence in Singapore 1939–1985, 61; Joan Hon, 100 Years of the Singapore Fire Service (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 16. (Call no. RSING 363.378095957 HON)
3. “Refinery Fire: 5 Firemen Praised,” Straits Times, 29 October 1988, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Milestones 1888–1990,” Singapore Civil Defence Force, 19 February 2020.
4. David Miller, In Safe Hands: The Story of the Singapore Civil Defence Force 1989–2000 (Singapore: Singapore Civil Defence Force, 2001), 7, 52 (Call no. RSING q363.35095957 MIL); “About Us,” Singapore Civil Defence Force, accessed 19 February 2020.
5. “Our People,” Singapore Civil Defence Force, 19 February 2020.  
6. Miller, Safe Hands, 18–21, 68; “The Full Force of Civil Defence,” Business Times, 23 September 1986, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Singapore Civil Defence Force, Civil Defence in Singapore 1939–1985, 61.
8. Miller, Safe Hands, 15; Singapore Civil Defence, “About Us.”
9. “International Co-operation,” Singapore Civil Defence Force, accessed 19 February 2020.
10. K. C. Vijayan, “Singapore’s First Fire Post Opens in Kallang,” Straits Times, 4 June 2001, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Chong, “Arson Incidents Cost $1M Last Year.”
12. Chong Chee Kin, “Fire King Comes Back to Life in SCDF Gallery,” Straits Times, 2 December 2001, 29. (From NewspaperSG)

Further resources 
Joanne Lee, “Remembering the History of the Fire Service,” Straits Times, 15 September 1998, 28. (From NewspaperSG)

Saud Aqel Alattas, et al., Building a Legacy: Central Fire Station Crosses the Century Mark, 1909–2009 (Singapore: Singapore Civil Defence Force, 2010). (Call no. RSING 363.378095957 BUI)

Singapore Civil Defence Force, The Heart of SCDF: Pride and Care Book 2015 (Singapore: Singapore Civil Defence Force, 2015). (Call no. RSING 363.35095957 HEA)

The information in this article is valid as at February 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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