On Assignment
Exercise Heartbeat 2016: Businesses Join in SGSecure Movement
Exercise Heartbeat, an annual counter-terrorism exercise conducted by the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The smell of gunpowder lingered in the air even as the dust cleared. The sounds of blank ammunition echoed throughout the vast halls in the concourse of the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay during a mock attack by armed gunmen.

Onlookers watched from safe distances outside the complex as role-players acted out their respective roles during the counter-terrorism scenario. Inside, observers jumped at the loud bang that followed after an artificial Improvised Explosive Device (IED) planted by a staged terrorist was detonated.

There was a lesson to be learnt in all this, and the key message has been echoed for months: “Do you know what to do if a terrorist attack occurs?”

Responders from the Singapore Civil Defence Force enter the scene after a simulated attack during Exercise Heartbeat. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

A joint counter-terrorism exercise was conducted by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay on 2 September 2016.

The annual exercise, codenamed “Exercise Heartbeat”, involved a total of 167 participants. They include men and women from the SPF and the SCDF, staff from the Esplanade, members of the Safety and Security Watch Group (SSWG), as well as students and residents from nearby buildings.

Guards from the Esplanade’s very own in-house security team participated in the exercise by demonstrating the standard operating procedures when coming into contact with a suspected IED.

Security officers from the Esplanade inspect a suspicious parcel during Exercise Heartbeat 2016. The exercise featured the Esplanade's in-house security team responding to simulated scenarios of an improvised Explosive Device Explosion and evacuation during gunmen attack. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

A total of 24 employees from the Esplanade were involved in the exercise, which includes security staff, as well as colleagues from Esplanade’s programming and operational departments.

“Since the time we opened back in 2012, we have had a range of security protocols in place. We do bag checks, (and) we have an extensive network of cameras that we use to monitor the facility to look out for suspicious activity or items that people may leave behind. So security has always been important for us, and we make an effort to train our staff so that there’s a level of awareness and vigilance among them when they carry out their daily activities,” said Mr Ravi Sivalingam, Head of Hospitality and Services at the Esplanade.

Exercise Heartbeat 2016 participants demonstrate the "Press, Tie & Tell" during the simulation. Staff members from the Esplanade begun preparing for the exercise two weeks ago. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

Mr Ravi added that the staff at the Esplanade have been trained to provide first aid and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) when the need arises. Aside from that, the Esplanade works closely with the neighbourhood Police to make sure that the Esplanade has the necessary resources and responses in place should an incident occur.

“We have a crisis management plan, (and) we have a business continuity plan… We recognise that we can’t do that alone, so there is a strong spirit of collaboration with the Police to make sure that even when something does happen, we are able to get back to an operational footing as soon as possible,” Mr Ravi said.

Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) attend to a casualty during a simulation at the Esplanade. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

66-year old Ms Jasmine Ting was one of eight participants from the Kampong Glam Waterloo Residents Committee (RC) that was participating in the counter-terrorism exercise. She also included her nephews in the morning’s exercise, and having them role-play as visitors to the Esplanade’s art exhibitions on the lower floors.

“I was bringing my nephews to look at the art displays, and they were catching Pokémon… When we learnt of the (staged) terrorist attack, we were told to evacuate in a calm and orderly manner,” she said.

Ms Ting had expressed interest in Exercise Heartbeat when the neighbourhood Police visited her RC for an engagement session two months ago.

“Our residents were keen to learn about SGSecure. Keeping Singapore safe and secure is very important, because we want our loved ones to be free from danger and terrorist attacks,” she added.

Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Mr Amrin Amin, who was observing the exercise, said the SPF is taking steps to prevent, as well as enhance its operational ability in responding to such an attack.

“We are preparing for a real threat. Recently, we have seen attacks at concert halls in Paris… We have to prepare ourselves and know what to do in the event of an attack. Exercise Heartbeat prepares our forces, as well as the private sector, for the eventuality of such an attack. And it is especially appropriate that we involve people from different sectors so that they know what to do,” he added.

Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Mr Amrin Amin (second from right) observes as officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force transport a high-priority patient during Exercise Heartbeat 2016. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

Mr Amrin said it was crucial for exercises to include staff members from the retail and entertainment sector so they know what to do in the event of an attack.

“An exercise like this is very useful so we sensitise as well as practise our standard operating procedures, so when the time comes, all of us are able to respond decisively,” he added.

Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs Mr Amrin Amin (third from right) and Mr Loh Ngai Seng, Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, observe Exercise Heartbeat at the Esplanade. PHOTO: Mabel Yap

During the exercise, Mr Amrin also emphasised the importance for businesses like the Esplanade to update their business continuity plans, so that staff and tenants can resume to normalcy as soon as possible, following an attack.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 05 September 2016
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