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One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 7)

Duty and dedication – Working as One Home Team as part of the national response to COVID-19.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, the Home Team has moved swiftly to support the national response to this public health threat. Here’s a snapshot of how our Home Team Guardians are playing their part.

GRAPHIC: Home Team News

CPT Khairul Anwar, Staff Officer (Fire Certification), Fire Safety Department, Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)
In April, as Singapore worked swiftly to accommodate a large number of migrant workers at temporary dormitory facilities, SCDF saw the need for these sites to be equipped with on-site Company Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to quickly mitigate fires and facilitate evacuations. SCDF provided hands-on, customised training for the staff and residents of these facilities. CPT Khairul Anwar shares how his team took on this vital role.


What is a CERT and why is it important? 
The role of CERT is to mitigate and control an emergency situation during the initial stage of an incident, prior to the arrival of SCDF officers. As such, CERTs are the first line of response and they help to conduct quick evacuations of occupants during an emergency, if required. Additionally, CERTs can also assist the emergency responders, such as firefighters. 

How did the COVID-19 situation change the way CERT training is conducted?
Normally, the personnel selected for CERT training will have to undergo CERT training courses with Accredited Training Organisations that typically range from one to three days. Due to the urgency of the situation and the Circuit Breaker measures in place, we designed and provided a customised, half-day CERT training package that focuses on familiarising staff with fire safety systems and evacuation routes. This arrangement was specifically designed to facilitate the quick conversion of sites into temporary workers’ dormitories. Our ground divisions then followed up by engaging with the respective agencies and dormitory operators to conduct the actual training sessions. 

Customised training for on-site CERTs. PHOTOS: SCDF

Our challenge was in helping dormitory operators familiarise themselves with their new premises. We needed to establish that familiarity so they can remember the evacuation routes as well as basic knowledge about locating and using hose-reels and fire extinguishers. We also requested for clear demarcations and signs to be placed, to assist with locating evacuation routes in an emergency. 

Having to train such a large group of people in the limited time we had was a test of our manpower and logistical capabilities. Fortunately, my teammates worked really well to efficiently manage our operations, while SCDF’s Volunteer and Community Partnership Department and the Community Engagement Branches assisted by relaying our plans to our ground divisions and helping to execute these sessions.

I understand your wife is a doctor who has been involved in COVID-19 efforts as well. What’s it like to have a spouse who’s also serving on the frontlines? 
It’s definitely something special. It’s been really interesting to have a perspective of how COVID-19 is tackled on various fronts. Ramadan also gave us the opportunity to share our stories as we break fast, adding an interesting note to our dinner table conversations. We’re thankful that our parents have stepped forward to help us look after our nine-month-old daughter, and we make sure to shower immediately after reaching home, to minimise any chance of infection. 

Family support: Quieter moments with CPT Khairul and his family (some of these photos were taken before the use of face-masks was made mandatory). PHOTOS: CPT Khairul

Can you reflect on your COVID-19 efforts and share your key takeaways?
This has been a unique opportunity for me to contribute to our national effort to keep Singaporeans safe. These are unprecedented times and the health and safety measures that have been taken are definitely out of the norm, but it’s all part of our collective effort to fight COVID-19. 

It also aligns with why I wanted to join the Home Team in the first place. It’s about the effect that we can have on society. Most people associate the Lifesaving Force with being on the ground, but in the greater scheme of things, now I understand even more the importance of my role as a Trainer, and the impact it can have. – INTERVIEWED BY FAZLEE ROSLI

Inspector (INSP) Lim Jing Yi, Operations Division, Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB); member of CNB’s Emergency Management Committee (EMC)
It takes the support of all to ensure that frontline Home Team officers can perform at their best. As a member of CNB’s EMC, INSP Lim Jing Yi is involved in monitoring and managing COVID-19-related events for CNB. She shares more about her duties. 

PHOTO: Fazlee Rosli

Tell us about the work of CNB’s EMC.
CNB’s EMC was convened in January 2020. We’re responsible for managing matters related to the COVID-19 situation and implementing all aspects of CNB’s Business Continuity Plan. We keep ourselves updated on the latest developments and adapt our action plans according to how the situation evolves. This is done by prioritising how we allocate our resources; planning and coordinating tasks; conducting daily monitoring and reporting of the COVID-19 situation; and disseminating relevant information to our officers on the ground. 

How do these duties compare to your regular work? 
In my regular work as a Staff Officer, I deal with operations planning and policy matters where there’s usually an existing framework or a set of Standard Operating Procedures to act as a guide. 

My work with EMC is more dynamic and requires constant fine-tuning and spontaneous thinking. During the initial phase of our work in January, there were many procedures to be established, items to be procured, and processes to be worked out within the shortest possible time. I was entering new terrain at that time, but have since learnt to work better under pressure and establish my priorities in order to respond to urgent situations. 

An expression of care: INSP Jing Yi helped coordinate the delivery of care packs to CNB officers. PHOTO: CNB
What was one big challenge for you in your EMC role? 
We’re always working against the clock as we strive to put new measures in place, tweak existing measures promptly and explore additional safeguards to keep our officers safe against COVID-19. We also had to put in additional efforts to coordinate the distribution of our second care pack during the Ramadan period as the Circuit Breaker measures were still in place back then.

What’s the most crucial element to achieving success in your EMC role? 
It’s the support of CNB’s management and my fellow officers. One example of this involved the procurement and distribution of the care packs, when we worked hand-in-hand with various branches at CNB to ensure the process went smoothly. My work as an EMC member has helped me to appreciate the care and concern that the Home Team has for us. – INTERVIEWED BY SOO JUN XIANG

Ashley Tuen, Senior Executive, Corporate Communications Directorate, Community Partnership and Communications Group, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA); seconded to the Ministry of Health (MOH)
 We can all play a part! In February, MOH issued a call for public officers to support COVID-19 operations. Stepping forward and volunteering was Ashley Tuen. Having almost completed her three-month secondment as an Ops Administrator, she shares her experiences with us.

PHOTO: Ashley Tuen

Why did you volunteer for the secondment, and what were some of your considerations in stepping forward?
Having worked in the healthcare sector before I joined MHA, I wanted to contribute in whatever capacity I could. As I’m taking care of my elderly parents at home, I was certainly mindful of how they’d feel about me volunteering. Thankfully, my parents were very supportive of my decision, and honestly, they serve as a motivation for me to do whatever I can to fight COVID-19.

What were your duties as an Ops Administrator? 
I started out working primarily with a team to check on quarantine lists to ensure that there were no duplicate entries and all the required details were present. My team also arranged for swab tests for young children who live in the same households as positive COVID-19 cases. Occasionally, we also supported other MOH operations. 

Subsequently, I was with a team that managed data on quarantine orders. I also assisted with the timely issuance of quarantine orders and other instructions. Regardless of the roles I took on during my secondment, there’s one constant to my duties: it’s very important that I ensure all the information I manage is accurate. 

What was your working environment like, and how did you adjust to it?
My team members came from different public agencies but had similar professional attitudes. We all reported for work with the same Whole-of-Government mindset. 

Whole-of-Government in action: Ashley (in green top) with fellow public officers on secondment to MOH (this photo was taken on 7 April, before the use of face-masks was made mandatory). At right: A welcome package from MOH to seconded officers. PHOTOS: Ashley Tuen

It helped that everyone there was very welcoming. If anyone needed guidance on work-related matters, our team members were always on hand to share tips and help out. We also squeezed in quick chats between our assignments to motivate one another. 

Your secondment spanned the Circuit Breaker, Phase One and now Phase Two. As you look back on your work, what’s your biggest takeaway? 
I’ve really learned quite a bit during my secondment. All of my work needed to be completed in a timely manner, and I’d say my greatest takeaway was learning to be more patient, in order to focus on the matter on hand and take care with the details, rather than rush. Only by being focused are we able to think clearly and take the necessary actions. – INTERVIEWED BY FAZLEE ROSLI

Dr Joshua Wong, Director, Home Team Medical Services Division (HTMSD), MHA
It has been a busy 2020 for HTMSD. Since late January, Dr Joshua Wong and his team members have supported our frontline efforts to tackle COVID-19 and established measures that safeguard the health of our officers. Besides supporting the Home Team Academy and Civil Defence Academy in their dormitory operations (which have since concluded), HTMSD also visited dormitories managed by the Home Team to check on the safety and well-being of Home Team officers on-site. We caught up with Dr Wong during a rare respite. 

PHOTO: Dr Joshua Wong

Tell us about your work at the dormitories. 
Throughout the Circuit Breaker, HTMSD visited the Home Team Forward Assurance and Support Team (FAST) sites to address any health concerns our officers may have, and shared knowledge about personal health protection and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) usage. With the end of the Circuit Breaker, we embarked on a second round of visits to focus on PPE usage and refresher sessions, to further reinforce health protection for FAST officers.

What were your considerations during your visits to the FAST dormitories?
One challenge was to get everyone familiar with PPE usage. Once officers put on any PPE, it’s important to be mindful of where they are going and what they touch (as well as what they shouldn’t touch), to minimise self-contamination. Once officers have completed their tasks, they must discard the PPE in the correct sequence at the de-gowning area. It takes some practice for one to form the right habits. 

Leading by example: Dr Wong meeting with Home Team officers to prepare them for their duties. PHOTOS: Dr Joshua Wong

Having visited many facilities, what are your key takeaways? 
It would be the resilience and sheer commitment of all the officers – from the Home Team and other public agencies – who have stepped out of their comfort zone and volunteered to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the dormitories. 

Through our ground visits, HTMSD is constantly reviewing what further measures can be implemented in terms of equipment, infrastructure, workspaces and management practices to better protect our people. From a medical perspective and speaking as a doctor who specialises in occupational health, we need to continue raising our awareness of PPE usage and personal hygiene habits. 

You and your team have been busy since HTMSD was activated for COVID-19 earlier in the year. How have you coped as the situation has evolved?
Frankly, I think everyone has been hard at work, whether they are on the frontlines or not. Many of our non-frontline Home Team colleagues are also leaning forward and taking on additional responsibilities. We all have a part to play in this fight, and I think I’ve gotten used to this new tempo of work. 

What keeps you motivated? 
Faith, family and the Home Team fraternity. Working from home during this period has also allowed me to spend more time with my family, and I witnessed my seven-month-old son do his first roll the other day. – INTERVIEWED BY DESMOND ANG

Thanks to our dedicated Home team Guardians for keeping Singapore safe and secure. Don’t forget to check out: 
- One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 1)
- One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 2)
- One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 3)
One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 4)
One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 5)
One Home Team: Responding to COVID-19 (Part 6)

Written by

Fazlee Rosli, Soo Jun Xiang and Desmond Ang


3 July 2020

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