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car rides in heavy rain on a flooded road

Natural Disasters In Singapore: What Are They + How To Be Ready For One

Whilst it seem like there aren’t any natural disasters in Singapore, that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for them. As the saying goes, “Low crime doesn’t equate to no crime”, an adage that applies to Mother Nature as well! You might think that Singapore is a natural disaster free zone, but you might be surprised. Here are some of the common natural disasters in Singapore and our tip tops to prepare for them.

Natural disasters in Singapore

1. Floods

Floods in singapore
Photo credit: Jonathan Ford / Unsplash

This is probably one of the most common natural disasters in Singapore. Given that Singapore boasts a tropical climate, flash floods have been increasing as of late. These floods are especially common around the end of the year from October to December, as rainfall increases and the canals begin to fill past their capacity. Whilst this is one of the more harmless natural disasters in Singapore, flooding can prove dangerous if unmanaged.

In the 2010s, three people died as a result of flash flooding in Singapore. One victim died after a tree fell on a public bus, injuring two others. Another victim suffered an instantaneous death after a fallen tree descended upon his car. In terms of data, flash floods have been increasing in Singapore. The occurrence of flash floods has risen from six days in 2015 to over 14 days in 2017. This is one of the natural disasters in Singapore that affects not only people, but business as well.

This is because flash floods can affect traffic, slowing down the flow of customers and blocking up access to shops.

2. Heatwaves

As mentioned above, Singapore is a sunny island that boasts a tropical climate year-round. Whilst heatwaves in Singapore might not be as severe as those experienced in Australia, they still bring their own set of problems. In particular, health problems caused by rising temperatures have been increasing in Singapore.

Heat stress and mosquito-borne diseases continue to affect Singaporeans. According to a 2020 Lancet study, seniors over the age of 65 were affected by 3.1 billion more days of heatwave exposure. Given Singapore’s all-year tropical climate, the potential for heatstroke, dehydration and other heat-related ailments are compounded by the effects of global warming.

3. Earthquakes

Photo credit: Carl Campbell / Unsplash

In terms of natural disasters in Singapore, there are no known records of earthquakes occurring in the country. In addition, Singapore is not located on a plate boundary and is not prone to earthquakes. However, Singapore does occasionally experience tremors from large earthquakes affecting its neighbours.

In 2016, the Indonesian island of Sumatra was hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. Thankfully, only light tremors were reported in Singapore, with no property damage or casualties. However, the tremors did cause quite a scare for residents affected, given that most of Singapore’s infrastructure consists of high-rise buildings.

4. Hailstorms

This might come as a shock to you, but Singapore has experienced hailstorms! A hailstorm is an unusual weather phenomenon in which balls of ice fall from the sky. These ice balls are nothing more than solid precipitation that will form under certain conditions. In 2018, hailstones reportedly fell in Yishun and Seletar during a bout of heavy rain.

The threat of these hailstones come in their ability to disrupt traffic, uproot trees and cause property damage. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), hail is produced only by thunderstorm clouds. Hail is less common in tropical climates as the atmosphere above the tropics tend to be much warmer. Despite this, one should definitely be careful of hail during the heavy rainfall seasons of Singapore.

How to prepare for natural disasters

Medical transport
Photo credit: Jonas Augustin / Unsplash

You can never prepare too much. Here are some of our tips on how you can protect yourself from Mother Nature’s wrath.

  • Emergency kit

You can prepare an at-home emergency kit in order to prepare against any potential cuts and minor injuries. Having a well-stocked first aid kit will help alleviate stress in the face of crisis and allow you respond efficiently.

You can buy a ready first-aid emergency kit from the pharmacy, or create your own basic home emergency kit with this list of essential items recommended by the Singapore First Aid Training Centre.

  1. Scissors
  2. Saline wash
  3. Plasters
  4. Gauze and pads
  5. Triangular bandages
  6. Crepe bandages
  7. Bandage tape
  8. Gloves
  9. CPR face shield or pocket mask
  10. Medication (e.g. paracetamol, charcoal tablets, lozenges). Be sure to use this medication only for family members due to the risk of allergies or contraindications.
  • Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP)

The Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP) is a programme started by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). It primarily focuses on core lifesaving skills and essential emergency procedures. In addition, the course emphasises practical hands-on engagement. This allows participants to apply what they have learnt onto their day-to-day lives.

You will learn key information such as basic first aid, CPR-AED and fire safety.

  • Familiarise yourself with disaster alerts and warning systems

The Public Warning System is a network of civil defence sirens installed by the SCDF on over 2 thousand points in Singapore. The system warms Singaporeans of impending dangers, air raids and atomic bomb blasts. In addition, the system can also be used to warn against man-made and natural disasters in Singapore. Visit the SCDF website for more information on what the various signals mean.

  • Know your numbers

In case of any life-threatening emergencies, below are the important numbers to take note of:

995: Emergency ambulance and fire

999/6547 1818: Police / Traffic police

1777: Non-emergency ambulance

6423 9119: Drug and poison (non-emergency)

Visit here for a full list of emergency contacts and 24-hour hospital hotlines.

How to cope after a natural disaster

Marina Bay Skyline in Singapore
Photo credit: Mike Enerio / Unsplash

Surviving a life-threatening event is a very distressing experience and should not be ignored. Feelings of fear, anxiety and even trauma can lead to mental health illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survivor’s guilt and more.

Below are some organisations you can consult to receive post-disaster relief and support:

  • Helplines: Hotlines from the Samaritans of Singapore and the National Care hotline can be found here, amongst others. They can help to provide emotional support and counselling after a natural disaster in Singapore.
  • Mental health professionals: Speak to your nearest doctor, counsellor or therapist about your situation.

Natural disasters are distressing catastrophic events that happen regardless of human intervention. Even as the world progresses with various disaster-adapting systems, no amount of technological progress can prevent natural disasters. The best we can do is to prepare for it and reduce casualties and fatalities as much as possible.

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