The Crisis Management Conference 2016 - Welcome Address by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 11 November 2016

Commissioner Eric Yap


Distinguished Delegates


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good morning,




1. Singapore is honoured to host this event as part of SCDF Ready Week.


2. I wish to thank the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for helping Singapore in the planning and organising of CMC 2016.




3. Today, over half of the world lives in cities. This is expected to reach 60% by 2030. Modern cities are ecosystems of complex interdependent systems that deliver energy, water, food, traffic, healthcare, sanitation and environmental monitoring services.  Disruptions, man-made or natural, can cripple our way of life. This has led to new challenges in emergency management.


4. Disaster and emergency management agencies must therefore continuously transform and innovate to keep up with these challenges, in order to maintain their operational edge. Effective emergency management requires the coordinated efforts of every segment of society, from government agencies, NGOs, private sector organisations down to every individual.  


5. Disaster management is not just about how well emergency agencies respond to the crisis but more importantly, about how well the community bounces back. It requires a Whole-of-Society effort, and the disaster response community plays an important role in this area.




6. Singapore is fortunate to be spared from natural disasters. However, we are densely populated, with the majority of our population living and working in high-rise buildings. We also have petrochemical industries located not too far away from residential areas.


7. Any mishap in such a densely-built environment can have serious consequences for life and property if we do not have an effective emergency management strategy. Emergency management in Singapore is based on doing three key things well:


    • Operational Excellence,


    • Civil Protection and


    • Community Preparedness.


Operational Excellence


8. To push for Operational Excellence, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been deploying new technologies to improve our response capabilities. For example, the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force have in recent years employed simulation technology in our training curriculum to enhance the capabilities of our officers.


9. The SCDF also works with innovative companies to develop new emergency vehicles that are suited to Singapore's operating terrain. These include the latest 5th Generation Light Fire Attack Vehicle (LFAV) as well as the HazMat Control Vehicle. You would have seen some of these innovations at the Home Team Tactical Centre, which most of our international guests visited yesterday.


10. In any emergency response, we are only as good as the officers at the frontlines. Hence, MHA has invested heavily in research and test capabilities that would enable us to optimise the operations and training capabilities of frontline responders.


11. Last month, MHA launched the Human Performance Centre (HPC), which is a key milestone in our transformational journey. This centre aims to develop cutting edge technologies to meet challenges such as declining manpower and increasing operational demands. To maximise and enhance the capability of every individual, the centre will focus on institutionalising Human Factors in areas such as smart surveillance capabilities, Virtual Reality for training and operations, human centricity for network-enabled operations as well as studies into responder fatigue and vigilance.


Civil Protection


12. Let me move onto the next area, which is civil protection. A key tenet of effective civil protection is early detection and warning to the community so that they can also take effective steps to protect themselves from harm.


13. MHA has been exploring the capability to do localised public alerts, as part of building a multi-channel, multi-platform emergency broadcast ecosystem to reach out to members of public during emergencies. 


14. There are other countries with similar emergency alert systems in place, such as the US, Europe, Australia, Korea and Japan, just to name a few. We have been studying some of these systems and learning from their experience.  


15. Last month, we launched an SMS-based Public Alert System. This system allows us to send localised alerts, via Short Messages, to the public in the vicinity of an emergency, and to provide them with instructions if necessary.  It builds on many other channels and platforms that we already use to engage and communicate with the public on a nationwide level.


16. We have also developed the SGSecure mobile application as part of our counter-terrorism strategy, that allows us to send location-based alerts to users who have downloaded this app. More than that, it also allows us to tap on the power of crowdsourcing by letting users 'point, shoot and send' visuals and other information from the scene of a disaster to the authorities. This helps us in sense-making and allows us to match the resources according to the magnitude of the incident.


17. The SCDF has also successfully tapped the potential of crowdsourcing to save lives. Since the launch of the myResponder mobile app in April last year, there have been over 26,000 downloads. There have also been about 1,200 cases where members of public were mobilised through the app to render assistance before the professionals arrived.


18. In one example early this year, a community first responder was activated through the app and managed to save the life of jogger who had suffered a cardiac arrest. After the jogger recovered, he also registered himself as a Community First Responder!


Community Preparedness


19. This brings me to the last point, which is about building Community Preparedness as an integral part of effective disaster management.


20. I spoke earlier about the need to build social resilience in the population, and one way of doing so is to organise and involve the community as part of the response during an incident. In times of emergencies, those who are at the scene are really best placed to respond and potentially keep the situation contained.  This also fosters a culture of active self-help, which is part of building resilient societies.


21. One success story in Singapore is the introduction of the Company Emergency Response Team (CERT) framework in 2005 as part of SCDF's fire safety regulations. 


22. CERT is a trained team of in-house personnel tasked with managing emergencies at the initial stage of an incident before authorities arrive.  This concept has grown from strength to strength since, with CERTs proving to be highly effective in bringing emergencies under control at an early stage. 


23. For example in February this year, two ISO tanks caught fire at a chemical plant. The plant's CERT deployed two large foam jets from their in-house fire engine and extinguished the fire before the arrival of SCDF. The swift actions of the CERT ensured that the incident was mitigated effectively with minimal damage to property. The CERT concept has since inspired variants of the programme that cover industries, commercial premises and community heartlands.


24. Another driver of building community self-help is SCDF's long-standing partnership with the National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council, which has spanned over 30 years. This partnership has promoted a fire safe environment in Singapore and an emergency prepared community through outreach and awareness programmes to residences, schools, industrial and commercial sectors. Comprising both public and private sector members, the National Fire and Civil Emergency Preparedness Council continues to play a vital role in engaging, educating and instilling self-reliance and preparedness in the community for emergencies.




25. The emergency management profession is a vital one.  That is why seminars such as this are so important to build our networks as well as to share experiences and best practices, and there is so much that all our participants can bring to the discussion. I would like to thank all the speakers in advance for agreeing to share your expertise with the audience. I hope that the presentations today will provide everyone a good learning opportunity.


26. Let me wish everyone a very fruitful conference, and let us continue to push ahead in our profession of making our cities safer and more secure.


Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness