SINGAPORE: While the rest of the city slumbered, the wee hours of Wednesday (Jul 24) saw officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) storm the grandstands at the Padang in the aftermath of a “chemical attack” to evacuate “parade-goers”.
Involving 400 participants and 42 emergency vehicles, the exercise led by SCDF was meant to prepare emergency personnel for contingencies that may occur during the upcoming National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9.
Just after 2.30am, officers kitted out in gas masks and grey chemical agent suits made for the “casualties” with their stretchers and casualty hoods that filter harmful chemicals, while HazMat specialists decked out in fully-encapsulated orange suits arrived on the scene to locate the harmful chemical agent hidden in the stands.
Within minutes, the HazMat team was able to locate the source of the harmful substance, mitigate the chemical release and decontaminate the area to remove its harmful effects before taking samples for analysis.
Meanwhile, evacuated casualties were put through the decontamination process and administered first aid.
Working seamlessly with the Singapore Police Force (SPF), Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Health (MOH), the SCDF successfully ended their multi-agency exercise at 3.30am.
Speaking to reporters after the exercise, SCDF’s director of operations Assistant Commissioner (AC) Daniel Seet said that while exercises and events held at the Padang were special due to its historical setting, challenges came with the venue due to its “spread-out terrain” and unfamiliar grounds due to rare standbys there that usually only occur once every five years.
“The main challenge for our personnel is to make sure that they are familiar with the place; they know where the various facilities are. We take that into account in terms of how we deploy our assets,” he said.
The emergency preparedness exercise which was done in phases saw each agency pull their weight equally – something that AC Seet believes is crucial for the success of an operation.
“Stringing a contingency response together for an event like the NDP is actually very complex … there are many, many moving parts. The SCDF handles one major component of it, but we don’t do it alone,” he said.
“The police provide the security overlay; we have our colleagues from the Ministry of Health to take care of the first aid point and the casualty treatment. We have colleagues from the SAF to support us in terms of casualty decontamination, triaging and casualty treatment. So exercises such as this are important for us to be able to string the entire process together, to make sure that it all works out.”