Published: 02 February 2015
"Staying Prepared, Saving Lives, Standing Together"
Commissioner Eric Yap,
Our friends from international fire and emergency authorities,
Partners, Grassroots leaders,
Pioneer SCDF officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. All of us have a part to play in emergency preparedness and response. Being prepared may not stop all incidents from happening, but it allows us to respond more quickly and effectively to emergencies, and better manage the consequences. Being prepared also ensures that we remain resilient as a community, after an incident has happened.
Standing together against terrorism
2. Take for example, the recent incidents in Sydney and Paris. France and Australia were already on high alert against possible terrorist attacks even before these incidents – but they still took place. In both cases, the security agencies were able to resolve the incidents decisively, because their officers had prepared for such situations, and had trained well for them. Individuals who were caught up in the incidents reacted well, helping to save precious lives. The community also responded well, carrying on with life as normally as possible, refusing to let their lives be disrupted. In Australia, 40,000 people responded positively to the hashtag #Illridewithyou in just two hours, and 150,000 in four hours, reaching out across communities in a show of solidarity.
3. In Singapore, our security agencies work round the clock to prevent a terrorist attack, but as in Paris or Sydney, it is not possible to say for sure that an attack will not happen in Singapore.
4. Our officers train hard to prepare themselves so that they are ready when called to respond to any major incident, containing it, minimising the casualties and consequences, and restoring security.
5. Most importantly, however, we need strong community resilience to counter any possible fallout from such attacks. In carrying out such acts of violence, the perpetrators seek to divide the community and to strike fear in innocent people. We must not allow such acts of violence to divide our society. On the contrary, we should stand united and condemn the actions of these particular individuals who hold extreme views; and recognise that their violent acts and attempts to justify them do not reflect the beliefs, and indeed are rejected by, the wider community. As Singaporeans, we must continue to cherish and focus on what we have in common, rather than accentuate our differences. We must also carry on with our lives, and not allow fear to paralyse our society, or stop us from our daily activities.
6. So, how do we prepare ourselves better to handle emergencies? We need to continually upgrade our capabilities, enhance our readiness through exercises, and involve the community more. Let me elaborate on each of these three key elements.
Continually upgrading capabilities
7. As the key emergency response agency, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has continually upgraded its capabilities to respond effectively to a wide range of emergencies, save lives and mitigate the consequences.
8. SCDF seeks to equip its response teams with modern and effective skills and equipment. For example, SCDF's Unmanned Fire-fighting Machine can be sent into hazardous surroundings to fight a fire. Its high capacity jets allow the fire to be dealt with more effectively and speedily while protecting our fire-fighters from unnecessary risk and danger. These unmanned machines have already been used successfully in several industrial fires. SCDF has also developed the world's first urban fire-fighting vehicle that uses 70% less water while extinguishing fires four times faster than using water alone. SCDF has also progressively upgraded the skills of our emergency responders, so that they can provide better emergency medical aid to casualties.
Enhancing readiness through training and exercises
9. SCDF also conducts realistic training and exercises to raise and maintain our readiness level. SCDF officers train on sophisticated fire-fighting and rescue simulators at the Civil Defence Academy. To provide even more realistic training, SCDF is developing a Road Traffic Accident training system which uses augmented reality and 3D technology to simulate highly realistic traffic accident scenarios so that our officers are trained for the most challenging scenarios.
10. SCDF also conducts large, system level exercises. In May this year, SCDF will be conducting Exercise NorthStar 9 to test emergency plans at the Singapore Sports Hub. This year's Exercise will involve multiple government agencies including the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the Ministry of Health and Police.
Involving the community more
11. Just as SCDF is upgrading its own capabilities, it has also been engaging Singaporeans and equipping them with vital emergency preparedness skills.
12. With appropriate training, you can be our community first responders – putting out a small fire with an extinguisher; helping your neighbours to evacuate safely if a fire or some other emergency breaks out in your HDB block; using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) or administering CPR to help a workmate or neighbour who has had a heart attack. Your prompt intervention can prevent a situation from escalating into something much more serious, and make the difference between life and death.
13. Here, at the Emergency Preparedness Centre, you can develop the confidence to use a fire extinguisher in different fire scenarios; learn how to carry out the Heimlich manoeuvre and CPR1;
and even experience earthquakes and tsunamis in the 3D virtual reality simulator. Visitors of all ages will find the hands-on interactive stations stimulating, while learning important skills to help save lives. We hope that this new centre will help to train more Singaporeans, so that we are ready to help each other as community first responders.
Remembering our past – Revised timing for Island-wide PWS Sounding on Total Defence Day
14. In two weeks, on 15 February, we will mark Total Defence Day. The date is significant because 15 February 1942 was the day that Singapore fell to the Japanese during the Second World War.
15. Each year, we sound the Public Warning System Important Message Signal on Total Defence Day.
From this year, SCDF will activate the Signal at 6.20pm, instead of at 12.05pm. 6.20pm marks the time that the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. It will give added meaning when we mark Total Defence Day, and also serve as a solemn reminder to Singaporeans to take emergency preparedness seriously.
Recognising our pioneers
16. History is also the reason that the Emergency Preparedness Centre's location at the Central Fire Station is meaningful. This is the oldest fire station in Singapore, and the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is right next door. Visitors who come here can also learn about the history of the Singapore Civil Defence Force, see the evolution of our civil defence capabilities, meet our rescue officers and check out the vehicles and equipment that they use. This is where the past, present and future converge, and where the SCDF and the community come together.
17. Let me also take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to our SCDF Pioneers, especially those who have joined us for the launch here today. You have contributed to Singapore's emergency preparedness over the past decades, and helped to build a strong foundation for our SCDF officers today.
18. As part of the Home Team's SG50 celebrations, we will be honouring our Home Team pioneers, with a special "Tribute to Home Team Pioneers" exhibition in May this year. I look forward to meeting more Home Team Pioneers in other Home Team SG50 events, culminating in the Home Team Festival in November this year.
19. I now declare the Emergency Preparedness Centre officially open.
20. Thank you.
CPR: cardiopulmonary resuscitation