Commissioner James Tan,
Officers and grassroots leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am glad to be here to officiate the opening of yet another Civil Defence integrated complex; the 2nd Civil Defence Division Headquarters and Tampines Fire Station. With the completion of this complex, all four Civil Defence Division Headquarters now operate from purpose-built premises. This will help the SCDF to handle problems such as HazMat incidents better.
The New CD Intergrated Complex
2. Known in the 1980s’ as CD ‘G’ Division, the 2nd Civil Defence Division Headquarters used to operate from a former primary school at Lorong J, Telok Kurau. Today, the 2nd Civil Defence Division Headquarters is in this new purpose built complex and serves as the nerve centre to oversee Civil Defence operations and activities in the East. The new complex also serves as a mobilization centre and operational base for SCDF Rescue Battalion.
3. The new look also reflects the increased level of premium service that SCDF provides for the public. For instance, besides firefighting, rescue and ambulance services, SCDF’s wide-ranging emergency services now also include HazMat mitigation, fire safety and shelter programmes and enforcement, as well as helping to guide and equip the population with skills to become a self-helping community.
4. Located in this complex is also the Tampines Fire Station. It is the 15th fire station in Singapore and the latest to be equipped with hazardous materials response capabilities. In its first two months of operation, the station personnel has attended to 91 fires and rescue incidents and responded to a total of 500 ambulance calls.
Countering the Threat of Terrorism
5. Singapore is not immune to terrorist threats and we must do everything possible to thwart it. In order to achieve this effectively, we need to make Singapore a hard target. As a country and as a people, we must create depth in our security by partnering with individual citizens and corporate citizens and getting them empowered to take ownership over the security of their own homes. This partnership is a vital one if Singapore is to be secure and resilient in the current security environment.
6. For example, SCDF has also taken steps to continuously strengthen its capabilities to tackle potential disasters, such as implementing concrete measures to boost its mitigation capabilities, including programmes to build up its resources, equipment and expertise to deal with Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) incidents. All fire stations are now staffed and equipped to respond to any HazMat or chemical agent incident. Since April 2003, SCDF has been rolling out stringent control measures related to the importation, use, transport and storage of hazardous materials. This will prevent terrorists from using HazMat transport vehicles as weapons of mass destruction.
7. But SCDF cannot work alone in the fight against terrorism. The community needs to be involved and prepared. Last month, I announced the formation of the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit for volunteer life-savers at the SCDF WorkPlan Seminar. In light of the current security climate, this is certainly apt and timely to bring the level of community emergency preparedness in our nation to a greater level.
8. Indeed, there are many people among us, in our neighbourhoods who would not hesitate to come forward to help others in distress. This is clear from the many acts of public spiritedness that the SCDF have recognized and commended over the years.
Community Engagement After 911
9. Since its inception in 1981, the SCDF has, under its slogan ‘Readiness Is Our Only Protection’, been actively involved in promoting emergency preparedness on the ground. In the aftermath of 911, the SCDF has stepped up and revamped its community outreach activities and introduced a slew of new programmes to equip the population with knowledge and skills to also deal with unconventional threats brought about by acts of global terror. This included the introduction of the modular Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP) for members of the public at the four Civil Defence Division Headquarters and conducting the Emergency Preparedness (EP) Days at the housing estates and commercial and industrial sectors. Since it was launched in September 2003, the SCDF has trained more than 145,000 residents through this programme. Infrastructure and facilities such as the dedicated Public Education Centre, which conducts the CEPP for the Eastern sector, also provides a more conducive learning environment, which will attract greater participation by the public.
10. In addition, the various Civil Defence Division Headquarters have also been actively promoting community emergency preparedness amongst residents, grassroots, schools and industries within their respective divisional boundaries. A good example is the 2nd Civil Defence Division Headquarters which had collaborated with the grassroots organizations at Pasir Ris West and Pasir Ris East constituencies to successfully conduct two counter terrorism-related Exercises, namely Exercise Heartland Alert I and II in March 2004 and June 2005 respectively.
11. While we prepare ourselves for physical attacks, we need to also consider the impact such an attack will have on our communal ties and its psychological and social repercussions. We will need to calm the ground and maintain racial and communal harmony after an attack. In February, we launched the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) to reinforce the networks of trust and bonds of unity among our people in order to build up our people’s resilience. This is so that if an attack takes place, we will pick ourselves up quickly, keep the economy going and help life return to normal as soon as possible.
12. The CEP is to reach out to all segments of our society. It adopts a bottom-up approach, with ideas and activities coming from, developed and sustained by the community. Only in this way will there be ownership of CEP by the community. Hence, the formal structure of CEP is deliberately minimalist. I chair a Ministerial Committee; there is also a Working Group coordinated by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which supports the Ministerial Committee. Represented at both the Ministerial Committee and the Working Group are the ministries and agencies overseeing the various groups in the five clusters – religious and racial bodies; grassroots and clans; educational institutions; media; employers and unions.
13. I am glad that several community organisations have already taken the lead by organizing their own dialogues and forums. For example, the Centre for Contemporary Islamic Studies, the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore and Perdaus, a Muslim volunteer welfare organisation, jointly organized an inter-faith dialogue in March where CEP strategies were discussed. The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations have also joined hands to form a Community Engagement Taskforce and held a CEP seminar in March. I am particularly pleased to note that the Taskforce has already held a meeting with Malay community leaders in April 06, where an agreement was reached to organize a career fair to increase the recruitment of Malay workers in Chinese firms. The CEP can only be sustained with commitment from the community groups.
14. Even as we build up networks among the people, the public needs to equip themselves with skills for emergencies. This is where the SCDF plays a key role in CEP to complement the community’s efforts. SCDF can equip Singaporeans with the necessary skills and confidence to cope in a crisis through its outreach programmes. When a crisis strikes, the psychological and social impact can be mitigated if our people are well prepared for emergencies and know what to do.
Prepared and United Community
15. It pays to be prepared. The experience and real-life accounts of catastrophes around the world show that many survivors of disasters are in fact saved by family members, neighbours and members of the community who are usually the first persons at the scene.
16. It is crucial for us in Singapore to have a prepared, united and resilient community. This is even more important in today’s global security environment as it is the citizens, members of the community, regardless of gender, calling, social status or ethnicity, who are the most critical partners of the Government in effectively managing the threat of terrorism. After all, as terrorism analysts and experts have repeatedly observed, terrorism is ultimately not defeated by Governments. It is the communities, comprising you and me, that are truly able to do so. We must stay united in countering the terrorist threat.
17. Thank you.