SINGAPORE: The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will deploy 150 officers and a range of emergency vehicles for the 33rd ASEAN Summit, when hundreds of ministers and delegates from 10 Southeast Asian nations will descend on Singapore's Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre from Nov 11 to 15.
Besides fire engines and ambulances to deal with the more common emergencies, the SCDF is also looking out for a far more sinister threat: Chemical, biological and radioactive (CBR) attacks.
To deal with such unconventional threats, some of SCDF's specialised personnel and vehicles will be standing by.
"We do not wish for these capabilities to be used, but if we do have any incidents related to CBR, we will be able to mount a swift response," director operations department Assistant Commissioner (AC) Daniel Seet told reporters on Monday (Nov 5).
After months of preparation, including tabletop and night exercises, SCDF will hold technical exercises at Suntec on Tuesday to familiarise its personnel with the area.
It helps that the SCDF has been deployed for several high-key events this year, not least the Trump-Kim summit in June, AC Seet said.
While AC Seet said the Trump-Kim summit was more complex due to its dynamic and multi-venue nature, the ASEAN Summit has its own challenges.
Because it will be held near a shopping mall, the SCDF has to work with tenants and in-house emergency teams to ensure everyone is well-drilled in contingency plans while business goes on as usual.
In the case of a chemical attack, people are likely to panic, fall ill and might even start vomiting.
That's when SCDF's specialised emergency vehicles will be rolled out: The hazmat control vehicle is the "brain" of the operation; the hazmat mitigation vehicle provides the boots on the ground; while the mass decontamination vehicle cleans up casualties before they get medical attention.
HAZMAT CONTROL VEHICLE
The hazmat control vehicle will be tasked to identify hazards, assess the extent of contamination and determine the mitigation approach.
The vehicle is essentially a "nerve centre" which distributes information ranging from what suit to wear to how large the contamination area is, said hazmat department assistant director, Lieutenant-Colonel Kwok Shun Yung.
"The priority is to determine whether the threat is credible," he added.
The vehicle is equipped with a device that can detect chemicals in the air from as far as 5km away, and a surveillance drone which can access hard-to-reach areas and potentially detect the source of hazardous substances.
Its interior looks like a cross between a high-tech command centre and a chemistry lab, with cameras to monitor incident areas and devices to identify different chemicals.
HAZMAT MITIGATION VEHICLE
At the same time, the SCDF's other assets, like the hazmat mitigation vehicle, move in like clockwork.
The specialists would have a rough idea of what they are up against, as first responders stationed near an incident area would have provided them with information like the number of casualties and symptoms displayed.
"The first wave of information is critical," said Captain Ang Hwee Ting, a Hazmat specialist who is also commander of Jurong Island Fire Station.
The hazmat specialists will enter contaminated areas, isolate and mitigate the contaminants and collect samples of unknown sources so they can be identified.
The hazmat mitigation vehicle, designed to evacuate people and detect and mitigate hazards, also carries a buggy that can transport equipment and casualties.
In situations where a building needs to be evacuated, there might be people who could not escape in time. That is when personnel from the Special Rescue Unit (SRU) come in; they will usher these people into a secret and protected room within the building.
This room has minimal ventilation, with its openings and gaps sealed off to protect those inside from hazardous substances that might be in the air.
Outside the building, SRU personnel will operate the mass decontamination vehicle, which can "clean" up to 80 walking casualties and 18 incapacitated casualties per hour.
Incapacitated casualties will have their clothes removed and bodies thoroughly washed with disinfectant. The target is to complete the process in six minutes.
Walking casualties can use eight shower cubicles in the vehicle, with interactive panels to guide them along.
"The moment we set up, we must decontaminate everyone within an hour," SRU commander Major Jason Chua said.
"THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRAINED FOR"
For some full-time national servicemen (NSF), this will be their first real-life deployment.
SRU section commander Sergeant (SGT) Nazeem Fazil and platoon commander Second Lieutenant (2LT) Ken Lee will be stationed together at the secret room in Suntec.
"I feel proud going through something like this in National Service and being part of such a high-profile event," SGT Nazeem, 19, said. "Hopefully nothing happens, but if something were to happen, I would play my part."
2LT Lee said being exposed to tear gas during his training days helped him prepare for this.
"Our training really prepares us for this chaotic scenario because working under pressure is something that our instructors try to impose on us," the 21-year-old said.