Residents raise concerns as HDB seals off corridor air vents in old blocks

Residents raise concerns as HDB seals off corridor air vents in old blocks


SINGAPORE: A fire safety measure by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has raised a ruckus among some residents of a block of flats in Toa Payoh Lorong 5. They claim that the sealing of ventilation shafts facing common corridors has become a potential health hazard instead.


In Madam Maimon’s one-room flat, the electric fan is perpetually switched on since the HDB sealed off the air vents last month.


She said: “Before the vents were sealed, it was not hot. There’s still a breeze blowing in. And it was bright, so we did not have to switch on the lights in the flat.”


Such air vents are a familiar feature of some old housing blocks in Singapore.


The move has raised concern among volunteers at the nearby Thye Hua Kwan Seniors’ Activity Centre, which sent an appeal letter to the HDB, without success.


Social workers said these vents were a useful means of checking in on residents, especially those who keep their doors closed all the time. Foul smells could also be detected through these openings and there had been occasions in the past where dead bodies were discovered this way.


But not all residents mind. Some make do by taking more showers.


Meanwhile, HDB said the move was prompted by a blast in a Bukit Merah flat on 3 August 2007, which killed an elderly man and injured four others.


Investigations showed that the fire and smoke had spread to other units through the corridor vents. Thus, HDB is keen to prevent a similar tragedy.


Lawrence Pak, Deputy Director, Building Technology Department, HDB, said: “We understand that some residents are used to an open vent and have to make certain adjustments to their daily routine. However, the safety of our residents is of paramount importance. HDB takes a non-compromising view towards the public and towards its residents.


“So in this case, because of the past incident, we sealed up the vents to ensure that smoke would not go into the neighbour’s unit if there is a fire within the particular unit itself.”


HDB said it has completed works on eight blocks since late 2007 and will start work on another 15 soon. – CNA/vm


Source: Channel NewsAsia

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