Published: 31 October 2019
Ms Margaret Heng, Executive Director, Singapore Hotel Association (SHA)
Mr Victor Chia, Commercial Sector Committee Chairman, National Crime Prevention Council
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good afternoon. I am happy to join you at the Annual Hotel Security Awards Presentation Ceremony and Hotel Security Conference 2019.
A. Terrorism Threat a New Normal
2. Being in the hotel industry, all of you would be familiar with the events that affect the world in which we live today. We all know the serious threat that terrorism poses. Even though ISIS has lost territory in the Middle East, its ideology continues to spread in cyberspace and attract supporters in Singapore and the region. Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) detained three Indonesian nationals who were radicalised by ISIS’s propaganda online. Malaysian authorities also recently arrested 16 individuals for ISIS-related activities, such as plotting attacks and facilitating movement of foreign terrorist fighters. In Indonesia, a militant from an ISIS-linked terror group reportedly attacked the Indonesian Chief Security Minister earlier this month.
3. So as we can see, the threat of terrorism is here to stay and we must always be prepared to respond to this threat. Preparedness has become and must continue to be a part of our daily lives. We must take ownership, and be ready to help others during crises. This is reflected in our new tagline for SGSecure, which is “Our Response Matters. We make SGSecure”. This aims to capture the essence of everyone’s collective responsibility in keeping Singapore safe and secure.
B. Protecting the Hotel Industry from Threat of Terrorism
4. Hotels have been the target of terror attacks before. For example, three luxury hotels were targeted in a series of suicide bombings in Sri Lanka on 21 April 2019, which was Easter Sunday. More than 250 people were killed and 500 people were injured in the attacks.
5. Hotels are particularly attractive as soft targets because it is where foreigners congregate. A successful attack will also significantly damage the economy. In Sri Lanka’s case, tourist arrivals plummeted significantly, resulting in a substantial loss of tourist revenue.
6. As security practitioners in the hotel industry, your preparedness and response matters. You are the first line of defence to deter, detect, and respond to any incidents at your hotel premises. I want to share three ways, and I know you are all also experts in this area, where you can prepare and be ready against the threat of terrorist attacks.
C. Training and Preparing your Workforce
7. First, every hotel should train and prepare your staff to respond to a terror attack.
8. Early detection can prevent attacks from happening and save lives. Hotel staff should be trained to look out for tell-tale signs of suspicious activities. There are courses you can attend on identifying tell-tale signs of suspicious activities, such as the WSQ course “Recognise Terrorist Threats”. To build vigilance amongst security officers, the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department (PLRD) has made this course a compulsory licensing requirement from January 2020, before these security officers can be deployed to areas such as hotels.
9. Hotel staff also need to be familiar with emergency response measures, because your guests will look to you for guidance and leadership in such times. This familiarity can be honed through regular drills and exercises, so that how you respond becomes an instinct. Most hotels would have Company Emergency Response Teams (CERT) who are trained in CPR/AED, and other emergency response skills. I urge all employees who are trained in such skillsets to also be a SGSecure Responder by signing up through the SGSecure app.
10. I am happy to also hear that more hotels are placing stronger emphasis on training, especially for non-security staff. For example, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport has conducted training for non-security staff on how to handle bomb threats and suspicious objects. The security team also conducts scheduled scenario-based training, monthly bomb threat exercises and lock-down drills. In the aftermath of the Sri Lanka bombings, the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, stepped up their training for all staff to detect suspicious activities. Security simulation drills are conducted regularly to test staff’s capability and awareness.
D. Protecting and Preparing your Premises
11. Second, hotels should take reasonable security measures to protect your premises against the threat of terrorism.
12. In 2017, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) launched the SGSecure@Workplaces programme to strengthen efforts to protect workplaces. Under this programme, businesses appointed SGSecure representatives to take the lead in implementing SGSecure measures and processes at their workplaces. The hotel industry is one of the five priority sectors identified by MOM and MHA for the SGSecure at Workplaces programme. As security measures for workplaces vary across different industries, MOM is currently working with the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) to develop a SGSecure Guide for Workplaces specifically for the hotel industry, which will be ready early next year. I strongly encourage all hotels to participate in the SGSecure@Workplaces programme and to implement the recommendations in the upcoming guide.
13. Enhancing the security of your premises does not necessarily mean higher costs over the long run. Some of you may have heard of the Security Industry Transformation Map (ITM) that was launched last year for the wider security industry. A key objective of the Security ITM is to drive the adoption of technology, because technology can transform how security functions are performed and potentially lead to better security outcomes and greater productivity.
14. Just as we have made the push to adopt technology in the wider security industry, hotels should also invest in the use of technology to enhance the security of your premises while enhancing productivity. For example, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport has installed sensors in guest room windows to ensure guests do not break the window and security alerts are activated if the windows are tampered with. Since November 2018, Grand Park City Hall has been trialling the use of facial recognition technology for check-in via guest’s mobile phones, as well as the issuance of digital keys. This innovation helps to create a seamless experience for guests and enables the hotel to authenticate their guests more accurately.
E. Partnering the Community
15. The third point I’ll like to make is about preparing and responding against the threat of terrorism, which cannot be done in isolation.
16. The security of your premises is also dependent on the security measures put in place by the community. Sharing of information and best practices, as well as working together will enhance our collective ability to respond to threats.
17. Hotels can collaborate with your community in many ways. You can participate in the Safety and Security Watch Group (SSWG) scheme. The SSWG serves as a platform for building managers, owners and security personnel to work with the Police in local threat assessment and security enhancements. You can also participate in joint training and exercises. For example, Police organises various counter-terrorism exercises codenamed “Heartbeat” with the community and stakeholders from time to time. The most recent exercise was held at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport together with the Police, SCDF and MOM in May 2019, and which included the aviation community. Staff in both operations and administrative functions participated in the exercise to raise the hotel’s emergency preparedness. If there are opportunities to participate in such exercises, I hope that you can do so, so as to familiarise yourself with the community response and to coordinate your responses in the event of a terrorist attack.
18. Before I conclude, I will like to congratulate the recipients of the Hotel Security Excellence Awards and the Hotel Security Awards. You hotels have demonstrated consistent efforts to enhance the security of your premises.
19. I will also like to congratulate the winners of the Individual Awards for Bravery, Vigilance and Honesty. I would like to mention Mr Feliciano Rico Cortez, a banquet manager at Grand Park City Hall and winner for this year’s Vigilance award. Mr Rico noticed a guest had been sitting in his vehicle with his engine on for a long time. He also noticed that the driver was slumped and non-responsive. It turned out that the driver was showing signs of a stroke and Mr Rico immediately called the SCDF, who was able to convey the driver to the hospital for treatment in time. Mr Rico’s vigilance helped saved a live. Well done Mr Rico!
20. In closing, I thank the Singapore Hotel Association, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Police for organising this conference. Over the course of today’s conference, I hope you will get to share best practices and hear about the latest information to keep our hotels safe and secure. I wish you all a pleasant afternoon and a fruitful conference. Thank you.