Published: 01 August 2017
Dr. Lee Bee Wah: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether any study has been done to determine the preparedness of our population for any emergency.
1. Emergency preparedness is fundamentally about building confidence in our ability to respond to an emergency. To gauge the emergency preparedness of our population, we can look at three facets: first, awareness and knowledge of the types of emergencies that we may face and what needs to be done in each scenario; second, whether the population is taking active steps to pick up the skills required to respond in an emergency; and third, whether the population will stay united and resilient in the face of crisis.
2. In 2015, the National Security Awareness Survey (NSAS) found that our residents were generally aware of the range of possible emergency scenarios, and were confident of our ability to respond to the emergencies as a nation. Between 80% to 90% of respondents felt that the Government is well prepared to deal with crises such as a terrorist attack, communal riot, health pandemic, and shortages of water, food and energy.
3. While respondents generally felt that they were less prepared as individuals compared to the Government in dealing with crises, the NSAS findings suggested that they would be better prepared if they had encountered a similar emergency scenario before. For instance, our residents felt they were most prepared to deal with a health pandemic, likely due to their past experiences with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, and H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009.
4. On the second facet of skills, our residents have been taking practical steps to prepare themselves to respond to an emergency. The 2015 NSAS found that more than 50% of our residents have a First Aid Kit at home; for those without a First Aid Kit, 80% of them knew where to find the essential items in their homes for use in first aid. There was also increasing alertness to suspicious behaviour, items and activities. Likewise, an increasing number of people are aware of what to do when they hear a SCDF public warning siren.
5. Third, on unity and resilience, the survey found that 90% of our people believed that everyone has a role to play in ensuring our nation's safety and security, and were willing to help others during emergencies. About 80% also believed that we will stand united, regardless of race or religion, and that Singapore will continue to function effectively in times of crisis.
6. While these are encouraging findings, more can be done to raise our people's awareness of new threats and the responses required, and help them to pick up the necessary skills.
7. For instance, with Singapore continuing to face the highest terror threat level in recent years, we launched the SGSecure movement last September to raise preparedness among residents and galvanise a "whole of population" response to terrorism. To help members of public pick up useful skills, the Home Team and our partners have introduced various advisories, tools and programmes. This includes the series of revamped Emergency Preparedness Days which is being rolled out to all constituencies to give residents the opportunity to observe a live terrorist attack exercise in their neighbourhood, and pick up relevant emergency preparedness skills.
8. Crisis Response Exercises (CRXs) are also conducted at the constituency-level for grassroots and other community leaders. Through these exercises, participants gain the knowledge and skills to assist the community and maintain social cohesion after a terrorist attack.
9. Besides preparing our community to handle terror attacks, we also conduct regular Safety & Security Watch Group (SSWG) exercises at commercial and industrial premises. In these exercises, businesses, their in-house security as well as their Company Emergency Response Team (CERT) practise their contingency plans with responders from the Police and Civil Defence. This helps businesses validate their workplace crisis response capabilities, and ensure that they are able to undertake critical functions such as basic fire-fighting, cordoning and evacuation in the initial phases of an emergency, before the authorities arrive.
10. The level of preparedness of our population will also rise over time through combating national crises together. Our response to past emergencies such as SARS, H1N1 and the haze have made us better prepared and mentally more resilient should such emergencies occur in the future.
11. Emergency preparedness is an ongoing, whole-of-society effort. We will continue to raise emergency preparedness among our community and mobilise our people to play their part.