Fellow Grassroots Leaders
Residents of Tanglin-Cairnhill
Ladies and Gentlemen
Although I know we had just celebrated chap goh mei, I would still like to wish all our Chinese residents a Happy Chinese New Year. And to our Muslim residents who celebrated the Al-Hijra on 10 Feb - a happy Muslim New Year. Above all, I wish that even though the world around us is still plagued by the threat of terrorism, all of us will enjoy a peaceful and successful year.
2 One thing which I believe is a vital ingredient for peace of mind in the midst of troubled times, is preparedness. When we are mentally prepared and better still, when we take efforts to learn how to be ready for emergencies and contingencies, we are better able to overcome any adversity which may come our way.
3 I am glad therefore that so many of you are taking part in today's exercise. Residents of block 119, 120 and 124A, I thank you for participating enthusiastically in this afternoon's Emergency Preparedness evacuation exercise.
4. The chances of a large-scale disaster affecting Singapore may seem quite low. But, the simple truth is if we do not prepare for emergency situations, when one occurs, we would be caught completely off guard. Our losses would be so much greater and our recovery so much more difficult. The reason why the human losses have been so great in the recent tsunami is because it was not something the most affected areas were prepared for.
Creating a culture of preparedness
5. We should not wait for a major crisis to happen before we start to think of how we should prepare for an emergency situation. It would be too late. Preparedness is our only defence in any emergency. The more we plan for and are prepared for an emergency situation, the better our chances of surviving the incident. We will also be able to more swiftly recover from the crisis and return to normal life.
6 Emergency preparedness is everybody's responsibility. In an emergency situation, police officers and officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, cannot be everywhere to help everyone in need of assistance. More importantly, those who are in greater need of help, such as those who are trapped or who are in grave danger, certainly have to be given higher priority. For these reasons, all of us must know some basic emergency procedures so that we can get through an incident if and when it occurs.
7 Last year, the People's Association (PA) set up an Emergency Preparedness Group (EPG) in each constituency. Since then, the PA and EPGs have been working closely with the Homefront Security Office (HSO) to formalise work processes and strengthen grassroots response capabilities to deal with five emergency scenarios they have jointly identified, namely outbreak of contagious disease, building collapse, bomb explosion, chemical incident and disruption to water and power supplies.
8 Emergency Preparedness has always been an important agenda to the Tanglin-Cairnhill Division as it houses many foreign embassies, the shopping paradise along Orchard Road, Newton Food Centre and Mohamed Sultan Road, which are potential targets. With its vast land area of 15 square kilometres, communication during emergency is also one of our concerns. Proper planning is essential to ensure that each and every one of us is able to cope with and respond readily in times of crisis and emergencies. The Tanglin-Cairnhill EPG is currently looking into developing a proper re-call system whereby key grassroots leaders can be activated soonest possible should emergencies occur in my Division.
9 To further strengthen the community emergency response capability at the local level, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are being formed at the Residents' Committee (RC) zonal level. 45 CERTs have been formed so far and the grassroots organisations (GROs) are encouraged to form more teams. In response to the call, 4 CERTs have been formed in Tanglin-Cairnhill, which I will be presenting the Appointment Certificates to them shortly. In the next phase, CERT members will be trained in first-aid, CPR, fire safety, emergency procedures, unconventional threats and in-place protection.
10 To ensure that my grassroots leaders are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge in handling and managing any emergencies, the Tanglin-Cairnhill EPG is now working with the SCDF to organise the Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP) for all our grassroots leaders. I will be joining them for the training and I would also want to take this opportunity to invite and strongly encourage the residents of Bukit Merah View to join us if you are interested.
11 We cannot plan for an emergency without actually taking some action. This is why the Ministry of Home Affairs is encouraging Singaporeans to pack their own READY Bags. Tanglin-Cairnhill GROs and CERT members will also join in to proactively promote the importance of having READY Bags during their house visits. The point of the READY Bag is a simple idea to promote preparedness. As householders, you decide what is important for your family members and customise your own READY Bags to suit those needs. Each of your family members is a member of your own home team. I urge all residents to start thinking about what your family may need and to pack your own READY Bags. I am very happy that many of you thought about what is important in an emergency and have brought some of those items down with you in the evacuation.
Household Brigades - Safer homes for better lives
12 I also urge you to get ready and stay ready to help Singapore fight terrorism. The terrorist threat continues to loom in the region and Singapore remains a target for a terrorist attack.
13 Apart from packing your READY Bags and being ready for any emergency, there are other ways which all of us can play a part to counter terrorism. One way is to stay alert to suspicious activities in your neighbourhood. This is an area where home-makers and those of you who are in the estate during the day, are especially able to contribute significantly. Since you are familiar with the neighbourhood, you will be able to quickly spot suspicious characters or activities that do not usually occur. Report to the Police when you see anything out of the ordinary. The Police hotline is 1800-255 0000 and the Internal Security Department's counter-terrorism hotline is 1800-262 6473.
See it, Report it
14 Another thing you can do is to join a neighbourhood watch group. Over the years, our neighbourhood watch groups have become a feature of community living in HDB estates. Watch groups help to prevent crime. But it need not stop there. This is because crime prevention and terrorism prevention are very similar. When you report suspicious characters or activities, you could be preventing a break-in or an attempt to plant a bomb in a public place. So do not underestimate the usefulness of the information you provide. See it and report it.
15 On this note, let me thank all the grassroots volunteers who selflessly contributed their time and energies to make possible today's Emergency Preparedness Day. I would also like to thank the officers of the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Force for setting up the exhibitions and making the arrangements for today's evacuation exercise. I wish everybody an enjoyable learning experience.
16 Thank you and may I wish all Singaporeans happiness, peace and security. And of course the key for us as citizens to achieve that is "Be Prepared - Be ready, not sorry".
Please also see the following articles:
Tanglin-Cairnhill holds Emergency Preparedness Day
Are Singaporeans equipped for a disaster
Packed to leave in a second
Article from Zao Bao - http://www.zaobao.com
Tanglin-Cairnhill holds Emergency Preparedness Day , 26 February 2005
By Joanne Leow
Channel News Asia
SINGAPORE : Some 500 households from three blocks have taken part in evacuation exercises as part of the Tanglin-Cairnhill Emergency Preparedness Day.
During the day, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Indranee Rajah also showed off her civil defence skills to an appreciative crowd.
She said, "It gave me a sense of what the SCDF guys do and I've got to say my respect for them has increased tremendously after trying it out for myself."
But excitement aside, Ms Indranee also had a serious message about being prepared.
"You can't be complacent especially in times that we live in when there is a possibility of an emergency happening. The whole idea is that you can't be ready unless you start thinking about it and there's some awareness about it," she said.
Since last year, Emergency Preparedness Groups islandwide have been tasked to plan responses to various emergency scenarios for their constituencies.
At the local level in Tanglin-Cairnhill, Community Emergency Response Teams have been formed from 50 trained volunteers.
There are even plans to reach out to private estates.
Said Ms Indranee, "We've noticed that in many of the houses in private estates, during the day, the residents aren't there but the maids are there. We're not sure to what extent maids might be aware of the ability to respond to emergencies, and one of the things we're looking at is maybe a simple training course."
Every Singaporean is encouraged to pack their own "ready bag" and arm themselves with the knowledge of what to do in an emergency.
Residents said they learnt valuable lessons from the evacuation exercise.
"It's good event to create awareness in the residents here, so in times of emergency we won't be so panicked," one resident said.
"Learn the sequence so we can walk safely to the right destination, so we won't get lost and all of our family are accountable; we're all here and we feel safe," another said.
Given the enthusiasm of the crowd, it looks like Singaporeans are on their way to being ready. - CNA
Are Singaporeans equipped for a disaster?
Just one out of 100 families polled has an emergency bag of essential items;
complacency is the reason
By Ng Mei Yan and Sarah Ng, Renee Tan
The Straits Times Interactive
IF A major disaster were to strike Singapore tomorrow, most people would not be as prepared as the authorities would like them to be, going by a survey of 100 households done by The Sunday Times.
The survey found that only one family has a bag packed with items recommended by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which they could grab and go in an emergency.
The so-called Ready Bag, which was publicised earlier this month, should contain a torchlight or candles with matches, a transistor radio, spare batteries, a whistle, a first-aid kit, personal medication, copies of important documents such as identity cards and passports and a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Emergency Handbook.
Door-to-door interviews were conducted over two days last week with families in HDB flats and private homes to find out if they have these items in the home.
The survey covered areas such as Bukit Timah, Woodlands, Toa Payoh and the East Coast.
Most families have a torchlight (82 per cent) or candles (80 per cent) because of past experiences with blackouts.
And seven out of 10 have a transistor radio and 56 per cent keep copies of important documents.
Eighty-five per cent of households have at least one of the items with over half (55 per cent) having fewer than six of the items.
But the items are scattered in different parts of the house.
Also, not everyone in the family knows where they are kept.
The families said they do not see the point of keeping everything in a bag.
It all boils down to complacency.
Most of the people interviewed think that Singapore is safe and unlikely to experience anything like a terrorist attack.
Secondary 4 student Ong Heng Qee, who lives in a five-room flat in Punggol, expressed the sentiment of many when she said: 'Singapore is so safe. Nothing will happen except bush fires.'
Housewife K.N. Koh, 50, said that she is too busy worrying about her children's studies to think about preparing for emergencies.
The Punggol resident said: 'Don't worry, until worry worries you.'
People also shrugged off the usefulness of an emergency bag.
Miss Lee Chun Rong, 23, a financial services consultant, staying in five-room flat in Jurong West, said: 'Singapore is too small. Everyone will just die if something happens because there's nowhere to run.'
Not true, said the Home Affairs Ministry.
While Singapore is not threatened by natural disasters such as earthquakes or typhoons, a Ready Bag will come in useful in a blackout or fire.
For example, people in distress can use the whistle to attract attention and help. They can also use the pen and paper to write down evacuation instructions broadcast via the radio.
A ministry spokesman said: 'The idea behind the Ready Bag is to encourage Singaporeans to start thinking about the value of preparedness. It involves individuals taking stock of the needs of their families...'
The bag was officially launched yesterday by chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs Indranee Rajah at a civil defence exercise on safety and security in Tanglin-Cairnhill. She is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
Singapore, however, is not the first place to come up with such a bag.
New York asked its residents to assemble a Go Bag after the Sept 11 World Trade Center attacks in 2001. New Yorkers are asked to put items such as an extra set of car and house keys, credit and ATM cards, cash, bottled water, non-perishable food items and contact numbers of family members into their bag.
If there was any consolation to be drawn from The Sunday Times survey, more than 80 per cent of the households said that it is a good idea to have a Ready Bag.
Mr Mohana Raj, 28, an education consultant who lives in a three-room flat in Bukit Batok, said people panic during an emergency and will not know what to take with then, so having a Ready Bag helps.
At the end of the day, Singaporeans have to assume responsibility for their own safety, said Dr Andrew Tan, a security analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at Nanyang Technological University.
He said: 'The Government can prevent terrorism through border control and intelligence, but it is also important that the entire community is mobilised to fight the threat. The awareness and vigilance on the ground will make Singapore a more difficult target.'
These are what you're supposed to have in a Ready Bag for emergencies, but not all households have them, as The Sunday Times found out in a poll.
Torchlight (82%)Spare Batteries (80%)Candles (80%)Essential personal medication (80%)Birth certs and passports of all family members put together (75%)Transistor radio (71%)Copies of important documents in a folder (56%)First-aid kit (44%)Whistle (39%)SCDF Emergency Handbook (27%)
Top five reasons for not having a Ready Bag
1) Singapore is safe
'Singapore is so safe. Nothing will happen except bush fires.' - Secondary 4 student Ong Heng Qee, 16, Punggol
2) It's fated
'Whatever happens is fated. If I am to die, I will die. We can die anywhere anytime.' - Housewife and mother of two teenagers Lynn Ho, 45, Bukit Batok
3) No time to think
'I'm too busy with my children's studies so I can't be bothered to think about disasters. Don't worry until worry worries you.' - Housewife and mother of two children aged nine and 12 K.N. Koh, 50, Punggol
4) Too old to worry
'Since we are so old, anything is too heavy for us to carry in an emergency. We can only try to run.' - Retiree Choo Sim Lim, 64, Toa Payoh
5) Nowhere to run
'Singapore is too small. Everyone will just die if something happens because there's nowhere to run.' Financial services consultant Lee Chun Rong, 23, Jurong West
More suggestions for the Ready Bag:
Extra mobile phone with batteries
Mobile phone battery charger
Portable fire extinguisher
Swiss Army knife and scissors
Hammer and screwdriver
Hydration tablets, water purification tablets, plaster strips for burns,
Trainer shoes, sweater
Packed to leave in a second
Once a victim of fire, well-prepared mum now keeps a black trolley bag with family documents and supplies beside her bed
NG SOR LUAN
The Straits Times Interactive
FOR the last 14 years, Miss Kalson Othman, 31, has been sleeping with a black trolley bag beside her bed.
The bag contains the identity cards, birth certificates and passports of all seven members in her household, a set of spare clothes for everyone, six tins of canned food, six thermometers, two lighters, two spare AA batteries, a pair of scissors, a marker pen, a foldable umbrella, a utility knife, a torchlight, a laser pointer, one bag of insulin-filled syringes, a box of paracetamol pills, sanitary pads, cash and a first-aid kit.
Miss Kalson has good reason to go to this extent to prepare her family for emergencies. When she was seven, a fire destroyed her kampung home in Punggol. There was no money and the family had to rebuild their lives from scratch.
The mother of four, who is separated from her husband, said: 'Life would have been easier if we had prepared an emergency bag.'
She lives in a three-room flat in Toa Payoh with two of her children, aged three and five, her parents, her sister and her sister's three-year-old son.
Her other two children live with her ex-husband.
Her mother is diabetic and has trouble walking.
Miss Kalson, who is unemployed, said: 'The house is in a mess and my mother is sick. If I don't prepare the bag, we won't be able to run away fast enough.'
Every week, she replaces the canned food.
The spare clothes are changed once a month.
She does not find it a chore to refresh the supplies.
'I think every family should prepare a Ready Bag.
'It is not kiasu. It is all about safety,' she said.