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Safety and Emergencies for Expats in Singapore

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: August 2014

Safety – Natural Hazards

Singapore has been rated as one of the safest countries in the world. The country is not affected by many natural disasters, though flooding is an occasional problem on the main island due to naturally poor drainage. Over the years, these floods have caused some fatalities and serious damage to property. Otherwise, the only other natural hazard is from disease epidemics, which are infrequent.

It is usually hot in Singapore, so heat exhaustion and heat stroke are virtually ever-present risks, with about 150 people succumbing each year. To avoid these conditions, it is important to make sure you drink enough water and wear loose, lightweight clothing. Above all, try to arrange your day so you are out of the sun in the middle of the day when it is especially hot, and take breaks in cooler places whenever possible.

 

Safety – Man-Made Hazards

Rates of crime in Singapore are generally very low, and the rate for violent crime is one of the world’s lowest. You are highly unlikely to experience any trouble; walking the streets and travelling on public transport is almost always safe, day and night. Nevertheless, it is always wise to take standard precautions and use your common sense.

Though rare, petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and bag-snatching do occur, especially in the busier districts, and you may be unlucky enough to become a victim. These and other forms of theft are most likely to occur in crowded tourist areas, on public transport, in bars and nightclubs and on the beach.

To prevent such crimes, it is important to stay aware of what is going on around you and keeping valuables such as money, jewellery, mobile phones and laptops out of sight as much as possible. In addition, various types of scam can occasionally cause problems. When someone makes you an offer than seems too good to be true, it is best to assume it is.

The threat of sexual assault is also very low, and Singapore is generally considered safe for women. Nevertheless, you do need to be careful to avoid situations where you might be vulnerable. Note that the threat may come from other expats.

There have not been any terrorist attacks in Singapore for a number of years. Nevertheless, there is still a potential risk of terrorism. It is therefore prudent to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. There is very little civil unrest in Singapore, and demonstrations actually require a police permit to be deemed legal. Any demonstration you do see might be illegal, and could be dangerous, so it safer to avoid them in general. You can use the local media to help you keep aware of demonstrations.

While there is little to fear in Singapore if you are law-abiding, the country’s laws are so strict that many expats have ended up on the wrong side of them. Spitting on the street, jaywalking and smoking in banned areas are all fineable offences. (Note that certain types of chewing gum are now legal, but you must dispose of it properly.) Fines can be in the hundreds of Singapore dollars. More drastically, shoplifting can lead to corporal punishment and then prison, and drug trafficking can be punished by the death penalty.

 

Emergencies

The emergency numbers to use in Singapore are given in the table below. An English-speaking emergency operator will always be available.

Emergency Service No. Notes
Police (main emergency number) 999  
Ambulance 995 Singapore Civil Defence Force
Fire Brigade 995  

In Singapore, both the ambulance and fire service are run by the Civil Defence Force. For an ambulance in a non-emergency, you should dial 1777.

 

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