Ms Ellen Lee: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether there are plans for willing Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) volunteers and National Servicemen to be sent to observe our SAF and SCDF in action in overseas rescue missions so that they can prepare and gain experience in the event of such calamity happening in Singapore.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and Education, Mr Masagos Zulkifli:
Mr Speaker Sir, SCDF’s Operation Lionheart contingent is deployed on overseas humanitarian missions to conduct search and rescue operations so as to save lives and help the local authorities restore the disaster site to normalcy. Since 1990, the contingent has been deployed for 13 overseas missions. The latest deployment of 5 SCDF officers and rescue dogs was to Japan, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami there.
2 On such missions, SCDF’s priority is to render immediate and effective assistance to those affected by the disaster. Hence, the officers who are sent must be well-trained and competent to handle the difficult tasks involved and to operate under harsh environments. The composition of our rescue team is based on guidelines set by the United Nation’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) - a network of disaster-prone and disaster-responding countries and organizations dedicated to urban search and rescue (USAR) and operational field coordination. In terms of capacity and skills, teams classified by INSARAG will be able to integrate better as they have the same basic structure, resulting in a safe and effective multinational operational response. SCDF was classified as a heavy USAR team by INSARAG on 18 January 2009, the highest level possible for any USAR team. The composition of the contingent must meet the needs of the affected country which typically would share their requirements in terms of the contingent’s desired size and skill sets.
3 Although the majority of a typical Operation Lionheart contingent is made up of regular officers, SCDF does include suitable National Servicemen who can add value to the mission. For example, one Full-time National Servicemen and one Operationally-ready National Servicemen who are doctors were deployed to New Zealand following the Christchurch earthquake recently. SCDF will continue to include National Servicemen for such overseas missions judiciously.