National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council Chairman Mr Alan Loh,
Parliamentary Colleague Dr Fatimah Lateef,
Singapore Civil Defence Force Deputy Commissioner Chong Hoi Hung,
Ladies and gentlemen.
We are here this evening for the 30th anniversary of the NFEC.
2. Fire is unrelenting and undiscerning. Many of us may have known a friend or a family member who has suffered losses due to a fire. Two months ago, I received a call from an inconsolable constituency volunteer who shared with me the story of how her entire house was engulfed by fire. Her mother was doing some cooking and became distracted for a moment. This led to a huge fire. Not too long ago, I visited SCDF officers who helped to combat the CK Building fire in Tampines. The matter is still under investigation but as you can see, the victims and the people who worked there felt a sense of despair and shock.
3. The work of the NFEC is never ever done. Its mission is as evergreen and critical now, as it was 30 years ago. I am pleased to be here with all the stakeholders and partners - not just SCDF officers, but also the whole community - volunteers, grassroots and businesses.
4. The Council has come a long way since its formation in 1986. It was first called the NFPC - National Fire Prevention Council - whose role was to engage Singaporeans on fire safety and prevention matters. The Council took on the added role of promoting community emergency preparedness and therefore renamed the NFEC - the National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council - in 2007.
5. Tonight, we will be giving out awards to recipients who have made significant contributions in making our homes, our schools and our workplaces safe for all. These awards reflect our appreciation and recognition of our partners and stakeholders who actively promote emergency preparedness knowledge and skills. The people who give all their time, energy and effort so that we are safe.
6. This year, I am proud to announce that the number of Gold award winners for the National Civil Emergency Preparedness (NCEP) Awards has increased three times. This demonstrates the Community Emergency & Engagement Committees' (C2E) success in enhancing the state of emergency preparedness in your respective constituencies, your homes, your neighbourhoods, heartlands.
7. We also witnessed an increase in the number of recipients of the Fire Safety Excellence Awards and the Civil Defence (CD) Ready School Awards. The MOE emblem emblazoned on the wall behind you is testament to the hard work that our partners in the commercial sector and in schools have put into emergency preparedness.
8. The NFEC award recipients tonight showcase the pivotal role that our community plays in keeping Singapore safe and secure. Making our workplace, schools and homes safer for everyone, is even more urgent in this heightened security climate.
9. You read in the news about the rate at which attacks are taking place around the world and close to home. These incidents are beginning to have a numbing effect on people. In fact, just last month on 17 September, an explosion rocked a neighbourhood in Manhattan and left 29 people injured. On that very same day, a mass stabbing incident occurred in a shopping mall in Minnesota, where an armed suspect attacked at least eight people.
10. It is not just bombs, guns or weapons, but also ordinary objects, such as kitchen knives, cars and trucks that are being used as instruments for terrorist acts. Singapore is also a target for terrorists. It is not a matter of if, but when an attack will occur. These are important words that we should keep saying over and over again.
11. Equipping the community with life-saving skills and how we can respond to emergencies and fires will put us in good stead to deal with a terrorist attack in Singapore.
12. As I was driving home from the launch of SGSecure last month, I witnessed a head- on collision between two cars. I used the SGSecure app to inform the Police about the incident. What struck me was that the people who were involved in the collision were not injured but they were frazzled and very disorientated. When you are involved in an incident, there will always be a sense of shock and trauma, no matter how prepared you are. It is the people around you - strangers, fellow Singaporeans, friends and family - who will rally around and offer help in that moment when you are most vulnerable.
13. So through SGSecure, we aim to build a society that Stays Alert, Stays United and Stays Strong, even when confronted with terrorism. The Government's response alone is not sufficient. We need members of the community - people like you and I - to come forward to play active roles. Each and every one of us in the community must play our part to equip ourselves with the skills and knowledge to deter and respond to an attack.
14. As members of the fire-safety and emergency preparedness fraternity, I hope that you will also help to encourage more people to join the SGSecure movement and pick up important skills and knowledge to save lives and protect homes.
15. As part of SGSecure, some of you who are SCDF NSmen and also Police national servicemen have been going door-to-door in various constituencies to raise awareness amongst residents and equip them with the skills needed to keep them safe when terror strikes. SCDF is also working closely with the community through the revamped Emergency Preparedness Days to raise awareness and impart the Triangle of Life skills - basic first aid, CPR, how to use an AED and basic firefighting.
16. In tandem with the overall plans to install Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs in every other HDB block over the next few years, SCDF will also train at least 300 residents in every constituency to use an AED. So we hope this will be a major push across Singapore.
How will NFEC play its part?
17. NFEC is a key partner to SCDF in promoting emergency preparedness by leveraging strong partnership with the commercial and industrial sectors. Through workshops, dialogues and engagement sessions, the NFEC can help our Home Team promote SGSecure missions as well as on how to respond to a terrorist attack.
18. All of you can help us spread the "Run, Hide, Tell" advisory, the three instinctive things that everyone ought to know and act on; or the "Press, Tie, Tell" protocol on the administration of improvised first aid to those who are injured. For example, in the Mass Fire Evacuation Drill held on 27 September this year involving a scenario of a fire resulting from an explosion in a cinema hall, participants tested their skills and readiness in attending to the injured and helping people to evacuate the area. With the right training, all of us can play a useful role in an emergency.
How do we respond as a community?
19. How we respond as a community in the aftermath of an attack is equally important in determining how quickly we recover. Racial and religious tensions may emerge in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, as seen across the US and Europe. Strengthening social cohesion and mutual understanding must be under the broader ambit of emergency preparedness and critical build up during peacetime so that during crises and in the aftermath, we will continue to be united and resilient.
20. I look forward to partnering the SCDF, Police and to working with every one of you, as individuals to make sure that as a city-state, we are ready.
21. Congratulations to all award winners and thank you for giving time, effort and service to your friends and neighbours. Thank you.