SINGAPORE: A new national movement which aims to prepare the public in the event of a terrorist attack was officially launched on Saturday (Sep 24) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
SGSecure is a revamp and an extension of the existing Community Engagement Programme (CEP), which was launched in 2005. The CEP brings people of different backgrounds together to boost inter-communal bonds, as well as put in place response plans to deal with potential communal tensions after crises.
A new SGSecure mobile app was also unveiled at the launch. The app is a one-stop portal for members of the public to receive alerts during major emergencies, and to provide information to, as well as seek help from authorities, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Speaking at the launch event on Saturday, Mr Lee said the Government has stepped up its measures against terrorism, but its efforts alone are not enough. "Terrorism threatens not just our physical safety, but also our social harmony and way of life," he said. "To protect ourselves, every Singaporean has to play his part. This is what SGSecure is about."
"SGSecure gives everybody a role in protecting ourselves, our families and our country," he added. "SGSecure will teach you the skills you need to do so."
ROLES SINGAPOREANS CAN PLAY
In his speech, Mr Lee also highlighted three main roles Singaporeans can play, and can be trained to fulfill. First is for everyone to be a “prepared citizen” by learning how to protect themselves and their families, and learning how to recognise signs of suspicious behaviour, identify suspicious items and report it to the authorities, he said.
"This is the most basic of roles, and I'd like at least one person trained in every household," he said, adding that the authorities will visit every home in Singapore to raise awareness, explain what to do in a crisis and encourage families to participate in SGSecure programmes.
PM Lee officially launches the SGSecure movement. (Photo: SCDF's Facebook page)
Mr Lee also highlighted the need for active responders, who will be trained to help others during a crisis. He said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and their partners have trained more than 1,800 residents in six constituencies to administer CPR-AED to victims of cardiac arrest. This is part of the Save-A-Life initiative which was introduced in 2015.
The SCDF has installed 387 AEDs at the lift lobbies of HDB blocks in the pilot constituencies, and this will be extended to all constituencies in Singapore from mid-2017. "In four years' time, there will be an AED at every other HDB block, and every neighbourhood will have residents who know how to use them," he said.
Mr Lee also spoke about the need for effective mobilisers, who are the "leaders of the SGSecure movement".
"You may be a religious leader, grassroots activist or unionist, a Home Team officer or a volunteer. But you will have your networks, people you know well, people who look up to you,” he said. "We hope you will champion these SGSecure initiatives, resolve frictions that could undermine racial or religious harmony and mobilise the community both in peacetime and crises.
“No role is too small in this nationwide effort,” he added.
COUNTER-TERRORISM “NOT A SPRINT”: SHANMUGAM
Most Singaporeans think the likelihood of a terrorist attack here is “not high”, and a “major effort” is necessary to prepare them in the event of such an attack, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.
There is a need to bring Singaporeans’ awareness to the “next level”: What their role is and how to respond in such a situation, he added.
“I don’t think a lot of people have thought about that,” he said. “Staying alert, staying united and staying strong – what does it mean to be able to respond, to help yourself, your family? What does it mean to be able to help someone else? How do you use the equipment?
“These are things that will take time, because it’s been a very safe and secure society, and people are not used to thinking along these lines,” he added. “So it’s entirely understandable.”
Singapore has done a lot in its counter-terrorism efforts over the past six months, Mr Shanmugam said. “You’ve got emergency forces on the ground, you’ve got the app launched, you’ve got Emergency Preparedness Days that’ve been conducted as pilots in constituencies, you’ve had volunteers and NSmen knocking on doors.”
But more needs to be done in the next few years, he added. “It’s not a sprint, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take repetition, it’s going to take continuous effort.”
FIRST MAJOR MILESTONE
The official launch of SGSecure marks the first major milestone for the movement, which has been rolled out in neighbourhoods and the community through pilot programmes aimed at enhancing awareness of the terrorism threat Singapore faces, said MHA.
Under the SGSecure movement so far, the revamped Emergency Preparedness Day has been conducted in three pilot constituencies, Crisis Response Exercises in two constituencies and the Keep Singapore Safe pilot programme held in eight secondary schools.
Industry players such as building and mall owners have also supported SGSecure by enrolling in counter-terrorism seminars and participating in ground deployment exercises to strengthen their readiness and response to terrorist attacks.
Said the chairman of the Singapore Business Federation, Mr Teo Siong Seng: "We must not take the peace and harmony that we are enjoying for granted. Businesses should be committed to being crisis-prepared to minimise disruption and safeguard their assets in the event of a crisis. Also, employees that are adequately prepared will be calmer and mentally equipped to deal with the situation in the event of an emergency."