SINGAPORE: There were explosions around the Sports Hub, while shots were fired in Kallang Wave Mall on Saturday (May 9) - but it was all part of Exercise Northstar 9.
Conducted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the Singapore Police Force and several other agencies, the drill is meant to test and validate multiple agencies' emergency response to a major incident.
More than 600 personnel from over 15 agencies took part in the emergency preparedness exercise, and for the first time, it also involved 1,300 volunteers - including students who took on different roles in the various exercise scenarios.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was also present to observe the exercise, which was based on a multiple terror attack scenario at the Singapore Sports Hub and Kallang Wave Mall.
He said such exercises help to ensure the agencies can respond effectively.
"We take it very seriously, because terrorism is a very live problem for us in this region and in Singapore we have to be very careful," he said. "We see the action that the Malaysian government is taking, we can see what is happening in Indonesia, we watched Syria and Iraq - ISIS - and we watch what's happening once in awhile with misguided souls who get radicalised, self-radicalised and who want to go and participate in this fight in the Middle East, so we have to be very vigilant, we have to practice our response capabilities.
"This scenario is a very live problem that we are dealing with and particularly with the SEA Games coming here, we want to be quite sure we are not running any chances. With major sports events, while sometimes attracting attention, it's a trophy target to attack and we must be quite prepared for the different things which could go wrong and today's exercise practice some of those."
For the first time, the exercise also saw the Singapore Civil Defence Force testing the capability and readiness of its new HazMat Control Vehicle. The vehicle comes with state-of-the-art facilities that can better detect and monitor hazardous substances.
"Segways" or mobile transporters, which allow responders to cover a wider area when detecting substances, were also put to the test.
"It is indeed a good opportunity for us - mainly the SCDF - as well as our related-agencies to be able to take this opportunity to validate our whole-of-government emergency respond plan and also at the same time to be familiar with the physical lay-out of this premises," said LTC Alan Toh, a SCDF Ground Commander at the exercise.
The exercise also roped in 1,300 volunteers for the first time. They comprise Civil Defence Lionhearter Club members, PA Youth Movement members, students, Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit officers and SCDF civilian staff and their families.
"They are crowd simulators, they are pretending to be casualties, but they are learning something as well, and I think many of these volunteers actually will be participating in the SEA Games either as competitors or in the opening ceremony, and so I think we are inoculating ourselves just in case anything happens," said Prime Minister Lee.
The first scenario saw two cars exploding at a carpark while a high security major event was taking place in the National Stadium. This alarmed spectators who started to evacuate the stadium.
During the evacuation, a perpetrator threw a bottle containing an unknown substance into the crowd, as part of the second scenario. This "chemical attack" saw SCDF deploying its Hazmat Control Vehicle and Mobile Transporters and putting them to the test for the first time.
The third scenario saw an attack by gunmen at Kallang Wave Mall.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post that these potential threats are taken very seriously by Singapore's security forces.
"Our security forces take these potential threats seriously," he wrote. "Indeed, all of us should. Previous examples include attacks during the 1972 Munich Olympics and the 2013 Boston Marathon. We must keep vigilant even as we continue with national events such as the SEA Games 2015 and NDP this year."
This is the ninth Exercise Northstar, which is a series of exercises first introduced in 1997, to validate multi-agency response plans which will be activated during a major crisis. The exercise also aims to raise public awareness on the threat of terrorism and to encourage continued vigilance.