SINGAPORE: A new mobile app that enables the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to send important alerts to the public during terrorist attacks or other major emergencies was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Sep 24).
The SGSecure app is a “one-stop portal for members of the public to download useful information on counter-terrorism and to receive alerts in the event of major emergencies in Singapore,” said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The app is intended to augment current public alert capabilities such as the public warning system, and will provide information and guidance to members of the public in the event of a major incident like a terrorist attack or a big fire.
The app was unveiled at the official launch of SGSecure, a national movement which aims to prepare the public to deal with a terrorist attack.
Through the app, members of the public can receive quick alerts on their mobile phones through a central messaging broadcast platform. They can also use the app to send information quickly to the emergency authorities through the app’s "point, shoot and send" function.
Screengrabs of the SGSecure mobile app. (Photos: MHA)
The app can also be used to call or SMS the police or SCDF if the environment is “not conducive”, added MHA. Members of the public can also activate their phone’s GPS function to allow authorities to pinpoint their location if they are hiding or trapped. All information collected through the app will be used in post-incident investigations.
The app also includes information, videos and infographics on topics like staying safe during an emergency, identifying suspicious behaviour and improvised first-aid skills.
SENDING OUT EMERGENCY ALERTS
During a major incident, the authorities will make an assessment on whether a public alert should be sent out, MHA said. “Messages that would be sent include those that require the immediate attention or action of members of the public during a crisis or major incident,” it added.
“Worldwide, other government agencies have launched apps with similar capabilities, like the emergency broadcast capability. MHA has studied them and designed the SGSecure app to be relevant and effective in our context.”
The ministry added that the police and SCDF adopt a “multi-channel” and “multi-platform approach” to send out emergency broadcast messages to the public. It cited last month’s CK building fire as an example, where the SCDF conducted an operational trial in which some members of the public in the vicinity were notified of the incident via SMS.
“As part of the SGSecure movement, a series of public education efforts has been developed to raise the awareness of individuals and families on the importance of staying vigilant, united and strong in the face of potential terror threats,” said MHA.
“Singaporeans are encouraged to download and familiarise themselves with the SGSecure app, and to use it as a key tool of help in times of major emergencies.”
SINGAPORE ‘NOT RELYING ON A SINGLE TECHNOLOGY’: SHANMUGAM
Speaking on the sidelines of the launch, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam highlighted technology as an important area in the nation’s counter-terrorism efforts.
“In the recent attack in the US, they were able to push out a very large number of messages very quickly, so everyone received an alert,” he said. “So technology, being able to push out alerts, either localised or in a broader area, is very important. We’re working on that.”
He added that the Government is also working with the telcos, and looking at “other technologies”. For example, the new SGSecure app is able to send out messages both ways – from the public to authorities and vice versa.
The technology that was used in the US during the recent attack in New York, on the other hand, is a “one-way transmission from the agencies and authorities to the individual”, he said, adding that SMS is also being explored as an option.
“We’re looking at all, and we’re not relying on a single technology,” he said. “It requires people to be alert, it requires people to be able to receive these messages, and it requires us, the security forces, to be able to respond to these messages too.”
The app is available on the Google Play and iOS app stores. No registration is required.