SINGAPORE: Grassroots leaders will soon receive formal training from mental health professionals to help residents respond and deal with the psychological effects of a terror attack, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Mar 19).
Starting this month, psychologists and counsellors from the Home Team, Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Institute of Mental Health – called Human Emergency Assistance and Response (HEART) teams – will teach grassroots leaders and residents psychological first aid (PFA).
Those trained will learn to identify and help residents who exhibit post-terror stress, among other things.
Police officers subdue "terrorists" in a simulated terror attack on Mar 19, 2017. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
Developed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2006 and certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), PFA helps provide immediate psychological and practical support to people in the wake of a traumatic incident, in order to reduce post-traumatic stress disorder and distress.
“People will be nervous, be anxious, will be stressed, and you need to reassure them, calm them down, bring them back to become normal again, and give them emotional and psychological support," said Mr Lee, who announced the initiative at an Emergency Preparedness Day event at his Teck Ghee ward, the latest in a series of grassroots events aimed at raising awareness among residents through simulated terror attacks and exhibitions.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the PFA training involves a four-hour course. Grassroots members from all 89 constituencies will undergo the training, and a group of 60 Ang Mo Kio GRC volunteers were the first to be trained last Sunday.
Grassroots leaders helping "victims" of a simulated terror attack. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
"We do EP day every year," said Mr Lee. "We take it seriously because the terrorist threat is a serious one, we see it around us."
The move is part of SGSecure, a government initiative launched last year to help Singaporeans to be prepared for a terror attack. The Government has said that an attack is “not a matter of if, but when”, and has stressed the need for grassroots groups, religious organisations and the public to work closely together.
In his speech on Sunday, Mr Lee cited incidents like the Puchong nightclub grenade attack, the Jakarta street attacks in 2016 and the foiled plot on Marina Bay Sands as examples of how close the threat is.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an Emergency Preparedness Day event at Teck Ghee ward. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)
"Not just today is an EP day, but in Singapore every day has to be an EP day," Mr Lee said. "We have to understand the threat, prepare for it and to learn practical things that we can do."
For example, he encouraged the residents to learn lifesaving skills, like how to use an AED, to stay up to date with the news and to use the SGSecure app – a mobile platform for the public to receive alerts in the event of major emergencies, and to send information to the police.
SGSECURE APP UPGRADED
The SGSecure app – which pushes alerts to mobile devices in the event of major emergencies and allows the public to send information to the police – will also be upgraded.
From Sunday, subscribers can configure the app to receive customised alerts by keying in postal codes. This means they will get notifications when emergencies happen at specific locations – for example, homes, schools or office buildings.
Screengrabs of new features added to the SGSecure app.
Subscribers will also now be able to receive news alerts from Channel NewsAsia on terror attacks and terror-related incidents in the region and globally.
The SGSecure app, which was launched in September last year, has been installed in more than 340,000 mobile devices, according to the Home Affairs Ministry.