Tuesday 22 May 2012

Strengthen community ties for safer S'pore: PM

He urges S'poreans to be ready for emergencies and not be complacent
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 21 May 2012

EVEN though Singapore has enjoyed decades of peace and stability, it cannot afford to be complacent, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

That meant anything from watching out for something unusual in the neighbourhood and strengthening racial ties, to being prepared for things like fires and medical emergencies.

'We are in a good position, but don't be complacent, don't assume things can't go wrong,' he said at an event marking the 30th anniversary of Community Emergency Preparedness (CEP).

The programme trains the public in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other skills, and aims to strengthen social cohesion through community events.

PM Lee's warning came in the wake of a recent spate of fires in Housing Board estates. The latest one broke out at a flat in Taman Jurong, just yesterday morning.

Hours later, at the event in Kebun Baru, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to be ready for all kinds of emergencies. For example, they could learn how to do CPR, and keep a fire extinguisher and emergency kit at home.

'We have to continue to look after one another,' he said. 'If anything happens, the Home Team, Mindef, the Government is well prepared. But each of us also has to be well prepared, ready for any contingency.'

Mr Lee also observed that working with one another and the Government to handle fires and other mishaps would strengthen the engagement between different communities.

'We can build a friendlier, more cohesive society and a safer place for all of us to live,' he said, noting that programmes like Neighbourhood Watch Groups have helped to build community resilience over the years.

Mr Lee, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, recalled that when he became an MP nearly 30 years ago in Teck Ghee, one of his first tasks was encouraging residents to join such groups. This got them to keep an eye out for one another, and alert the police if something was amiss.

'We all felt safer because you knew that your neighbour was helping to watch over you, you were helping to watch over your neighbour,' he recalled. 'And there's a feeling of togetherness and of teamwork.'

In line with this theme, the People's Association (PA) yesterday launched 'EP123Plus!', a scheme that aims to strengthen racial harmony and ethnic relations.

'A new slogan, but quite cute,' noted Mr Lee, as he explained what it stood for: Emergency Preparedness (EP) for one family, patrolling the estate two times a month, and exchanging emergency contact details with three neighbours.

The launch also marked the start of a year of activities that aim to boost the awareness of EP in the community. The Community Emergency and Engagement Council hopes to get 80,000 residents on board, as part of a target to have one in three households in Singapore EP-ready by 2015.

Such initiatives strengthen the social fabric and help Singapore through crises, noted PM Lee.

'It's important (and) part of our vision of what Singapore should be: Not just a nice place with buildings and trees, but also a happy community where people care for one another,' he said.

Ang Mo Kio resident Wilson Toh, who turned up with his wife and two daughters after seeing posters on the event, agreed.

The Tohs were among the more than 100 families that joined a mass CPR demonstration.

'It was a good opportunity to equip myself with CPR skills,' said the 40-year-old regional sales manager.
'In case of an emergency I can do more than just call and wait for the ambulance.'


Thank you for building a stronger and more united Singapore, thank you for being here this morning, thank you for participating in the exercise. I think we saved many of the mannequins just now.
- PM Lee, after watching more than 100 families practise CPR on mannequins

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