Some malls finding it tough to comply with fire safety rules

This article is more than 12 months old

A few padlocked their entry and exit points to comply with occupancy limits set by authorities due to Covid-19

Some shopping malls have struggled to comply with fire safety rules as they abide by Covid-19 safe management measures.

A few have resorted to padlocking their entry and exit points to comply with occupancy limits imposed by the authorities.

In response to The Straits Times' queries, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said as of Aug 31, 16 out of 200 malls it inspected had breached fire safety requirements by padlocking a few of their doors.

The malls were issued warnings, $300 fines, or both, and they have since rectified the situation.

One of the malls found to have flouted fire safety rules was People's Park Centre, said SCDF, though it declined to name the other 15 malls.

When ST visited the mall last Thursday, all its exits were found unlocked with removable barricades placed in front of them.

Signs were placed on the barricades indicating that these are removable in the case of an emergency evacuation.

But another issue was noted on the building's third storey, where patrons were seen skirting round these barriers to access the doors for entry to and exit from the mall.

Inspections by ST found that the doorway led to a corridor of shops which were accessible only from the mall's exterior.

The corridor is linked to an overhead bridge connecting People's Park Centre to Chinatown Point.

Owners of shops along that row whom ST spoke to said they have been starved of customers since the entry restrictions were imposed, with footfall reduced to close to zero.

A shop owner who wanted to be known only as Mr Tang, 70, whose shop is inside the mall but right next to the exit, said: "Keeping the door locked has impacted all these businesses and is a hazard to fire safety, but leaving it unlocked and unmanned could pose a hazard to public health, especially if there are Covid-19 cases who could enter and leave the mall untraced."

ST has contacted the mall's management for comment.

The president of the Association of Strata Managers, Mr Chan Kok Hong, said many malls have blocked their entrances as it would require a lot more security, manpower and equipment to ensure temperature checking and SafeEntry are carried out at every entrance.

He added that strata malls have been carrying out the same practices as big malls and using removable barricades.

Three other malls ST visited in the vicinity appeared to be complying with fire safety rules. Malls such as Funan and Raffles City Shopping Centre have locked sliding doors, which can be automatically released upon activation of the fire alarm.

A spokesman for CapitaLand malls said that this applies to all 19 of its malls, and that it "abides by fire safety regulations at all times".

Popular mall Nex has five out of its 28 entrances operational, each with controlled access in compliance with safe distancing measures.

Its spokesman said: "Remaining access points which are not locked during mall operating hours are barricaded with lightweight barricades which can be easily pushed aside, and doors with electromagnetic locks will be auto-released during emergencies."

A spokesman for Frasers Property Retail said all 14 of its malls "have implemented fire safety measures and are compliant with guidelines set out by SCDF".