On Assignment
Exercise Heartbeat: Terror Strikes the National Library Building
Not if, but when – taking Emergency Preparedness into the heart of the city.

Just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Bugis and City Hall, the National Library Building is usually tranquil, the perfect spot for those who love books and a bit of quiet. 

But on the morning of 25 Sep 2018, it was anything but peaceful. After a car crashed into the bollards outside the Library, three masked “gunmen” emerged from the vehicle and started spraying bullets at bystanders. The crowd erupted in panic. 

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Armed gunmen raiding the National Library Building. This year, the NLB installed crash-rated bollards to step up its security and Emergency Preparedness. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Jointly organised by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and supported by the National Library Board (NLB), the “terror attack” was part of a counter-terrorism exercise codenamed Exercise Heartbeat. Such exercises allow community stakeholders and building owners such as the NLB to test, validate and fine-tune their emergency response plans.

Ex Heartbeat
Two “casualties” lie unconscious at the National Library Building after the “attack”. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

The Exercise tested the coordination between Home Team agencies and the community in responding to a simulated terror attack. Over the past decade, over 20 runs of Exercise Heartbeat have been conducted, in a range of public venues.

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Emergency Response Team officers from the SPF swiftly intercepted the “gunmen” as they tried to make a quick getaway. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

Things were equally dire inside the National Library Building. In a different scenario, an armed attacker stormed the children’s section of the Library, sending a roomful of Primary School students into a panic. 

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Students from Stamford Primary School at the children’s section of the Library. Photo: Muhamad Khair

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Emergency Response Team officers in a standoff with an armed attacker as a bystander lies injured. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

In preparation for the Exercise, about 500 staff and tenants of the National Library Building were trained in the SGSecure “Run, Hide, Tell” protocol and Improvised First Aid Skills. 

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Run, Hide, Tell: A librarian instructs library-goers to hide behind a bookshelf during the shootout. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

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Safe and secure: Emergency Response Team officers after neutralising the armed attacker. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

During the attack, NLB staff ushered library-goers to the designated exit points, though not everyone managed to escape. And as the Exercise drew to a close, those “injured” during the attack also received medical treatment from medical personnel. Realistic conditions such as these allow building owners like the NLB to test and enhance their Emergency Preparedness measures.

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Press, Tie, Tell: After the exercise, officers from the SCDF conducted a demonstration of how they treat casualties. PHOTO: Muhamad Khair

In recent years, Exercise Heartbeat has been conducted at venues such as Sentosa, Clarke Quay, the Esplanade, Bishan Central and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. The message is clear – when it comes to being prepared for an emergency, we all have a part to play. While this run of Exercise Heartbeat may have ended, building up our counter-terrorism capabilities must continue. 

SGSecure
To learn more about SGSecure national movement, visit the SGSecure website. Want to know how you can take part in the SGSecure@Workplaces programme? Check out this page.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.


  1. by Muhamad Khair
  2. 28 September 2018
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