Monday, 26 September 2016

SGSecure: Nationwide drive against terror starts

SGSecure scheme trains people to spot suspicious acts; Each constituency gets 300 residents with life-saving skills; New app to alert people, and for reporting incidents
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

Every Singaporean family will have at least one member trained in spotting suspicious behaviour - part of a new nationwide movement to galvanise and prepare the country for terror attacks.

As part of SGSecure, every constituency will also have at least 300 residents trained in life-saving skills, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation. There is also a new app to broadcast alerts and advisories during major emergencies, and which can be used to report incidents to the police.

Singaporeans all have a part to play in protecting themselves and those around them in the event of a terror attack, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he launched SGSecure yesterday. He outlined three key aspects of the movement - people protecting themselves and their family; helping others in times of crisis; and community leaders being mobilised to help resolve friction. "Whichever part you play, you will be helping to protect Singapore and our way of life," he said.

When an attack happens, how people respond will determine whether Singapore stands together or falls apart. People can respond out of fear, or work together to overcome the threats and PM Lee said: "It's quite clear what the answer is: Stand up, do the right thing, get prepared, gird ourselves.

Saying that threats against Singapore have become more virulent and serious, he added that many recent attacks around the world have been carried out by self-radicalised "lone wolves" who target everyday venues, and use ordinary objects, such as knives or trucks, as weapons.

In Singapore's context, this could mean attacks in MRT stations, hawker centres and shopping malls, he said.

To combat these threats, the Government has stepped up security measures, but these efforts alone are not enough, he added.

SGSecure aims to train people in the skills they need to help them stay united during a crisis.

To illustrate how everyone can contribute, he cited a recent case in which a Malaysian man had remained in Changi Airport's departure transit area for 18 days by using forged mobile boarding passes. A worker at a lounge noticed something amiss and called the police.

Said Mr Lee: "You don't have to be a big hunky fellow. A young lady doing her job, keeping her eyes open, made a difference."

He also urged people to take part in Emergency Preparedness Day exercises that will be held in all 89 constituencies over the next two years, to learn what to do if an attack hits the heartland.

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was also at the event held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, said most people still do not know what to do if caught in an attack. "We may not be able to stop an attack but how we respond the day after is an indication of our resilience and character," he said.

On the motivation behind SGSecure, Mr Lee said that at its heart, it is about protecting Singapore's racial and religious harmony.

Constant effort is needed to preserve this harmony, he said, citing as an example the Government's recent review of the elected presidency to ensure minorities are elected periodically. Mr Lee said the head of state embodies Singapore's multiracial society, and it was important for people of different races to feel that a member of their community can hold the office.

But he said the symbolism of the president must ring true in day-to-day life. He called on people to learn to give and take, reach out to one another, and speak out against racial and religious intolerance.

Launch of SGSecure

What is SGSecure?
The SGSecure national movement aims to get all Singaporeans involved in the fight against terror by teaching them the skills they need to protect themselves, their family and the country. Here are some who have already volunteered for the various initiatives.

By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

Shortly after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Singaporean Robert Ronald was in San Francisco for work.

He recalled how his well-meaning American colleagues warned him not to jog alone as he could be mistaken for a Muslim and get verbally abused or even beaten up.

The attacks, which brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York City, were co-ordinated by terrorist group Al-Qaeda, and had led to the rise of Islamophobia in some quarters.

The desire to avoid such a situation here was what spurred the strategy planner to participate in the Community Emergency and Engagement programme in Kolam Ayer.

As committee chairman for the last eight years, he organises constituency-wide "Emergency Preparedness Days" when there are terrorist attack simulations involving almost a thousand residents. He also conducts smaller-scale drills involving five to 10 Housing Board blocks.

Such events allow residents to learn skills like first-aid and proper evacuation methods, and also lets them interact with one another, he said.

"Many Singaporeans still feel that terrorist attacks here are unlikely," said Mr Ronald, 47, adding that he worries some people may do the "wrong thing" and stand in the open to video the aftermath of an attack.

"Sometimes there can be a second or third attack, so we need to practise how to run to a safe place, hide, and then tell the authorities when it's okay to do so," he said.

By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

As a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade in his youth, taxi driver Yap Keng Ho has had his fair share of helping people in need, such as someone who suffered a heatstroke and another who had fractured his leg.

But the 55-year-old only came face to face with those in life-threatening situations when he joined SMRT's AED on Wheels programme last November.

Under the programme, about 100 drivers are trained to use an automated external defibrillator, and their cabs are fitted with the machine. It is aimed at buying time for those who suffer a heart attack, before Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers show up.

So far, Mr Yap has responded to more than 20 cases.

The unflappable man has even gone above and beyond his duty, to assist SCDF officers with the cases he has met by helping to insert a line for intravenous drips.

He gleaned his skills from taking care of his father, who suffered from pneumonia and died last year.

Mr Yap notes that not everyone may be able to rise to the challenge of learning how to use an automated external defibrillator.

"Some people can't handle the stress of seeing blood or being in a near-death situation.

"Training on the dummy was fun, but things are different once you have to use it," he said.

"But it is a device you should learn to use. You never know when you'll need to use it, or who you'll need to use it for."


By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 25 Sep 2016

Madam Saniah Rasban's neigbours know they can always turn to her for a chat or help with first aid.

The 56-year-old housewife is a Community Emergency Response Team first-aider, and has rushed to the scene of several traffic accidents in her Chong Pang neighbourhood.

On festive occasions like Hari Raya, she also opens up her home to neighbours and friends for a bite and some conversation.

Learning first-aid skills and being a friendly neighbour are just some of the ways she has adopted to strengthen community bonds.

It is her way of fighting the threat of terrorism.

"When I first read about terrorist attacks in the region, I got a bit scared," said Madam Saniah, who was certified in first aid seven years ago. "I wanted to do something to protect the people around me."

Given that a number of attacks have been initiated by "lone wolves" operating under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), she thinks it is important to strengthen Singapore's multiracial harmony in peacetime.

"I'm worried that if an ISIS attack happens, some people might think Muslims are at fault.

"But such people are not Muslims, they are on the wrong path," she said.

However, she is more confident than she is concerned, as most Singaporeans she sees are on good terms with one another.

"We just need to learn to give and take," she said.

* MINDEF says downloading SGSecure app is a must for all MINDEF, SAF personnel in response to criticism
By Lydia Lam, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2017

Downloading the SGSecure mobile application is a must for Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel, MINDEF has said, after disgruntled national servicemen complained they were forced to download it.

The national servicemen wrote in app reviews that they were made to download the app, and many of them rated the app poorly along with their complaints.

The download is part of a counter-terrorism training programme being implemented in phases, MINDEF said in a statement on Friday (July 28).

"In the first phase, MINDEF/SAF personnel are required to download the SGSecure mobile application and complete the e-learning modules embedded within," said the statement.

"Subsequently, MINDEF/SAF personnel will be put through scenario-based community response training, to provide them with the knowledge to protect themselves and those around them in the event of a terror attack."

Screenshots of bad reviews left on the app have been circulating on social media this week. The app, which has 101 reviews as of noon on Saturday, is rated 1.5 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store.

One review by a person who used the username "Forced NPCO" rated the app 1 out of 5 stars and said: "The management of SPF forced their officers to download, or be blacklisted, no consumption of leave and have your team leader nagging you 24/7 until you download on your phone."

Another person named Twig Ng wrote: "Later during morning RO, my Encik will check if everyone downloaded this app. No download no bookout."

MINDEF said the counter-terrorism training programme, which applies to all MINDEF and SAF personnel, is to better equip its personnel to be prepared citizens and active responders in the event of a terrorist attack, in line with the stepping up of Singapore's national counter-terrorism efforts.

"Global and regional terror threats are persistent and long-term issues that should not be taken lightly," said MINDEF in its statement. "Singapore is just as susceptible to these threats as any other country."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Straits Times that it encourages everyone to download the app, including Home Team officers and national servicemen.

"The SGSecure mobile app allows members of public to download useful information on counter-terrorism, and to receive alerts in the event of major emergencies and terror incidents in Singapore," said MHA in its statement. "It also allows the public to send information to the police via text, pictures or videos."

A platoon sergeant, declining to be named, told ST that he and his fellow commanders were told a few weeks ago to instruct his men to download the SGSecure mobile app after they booked out of camp, and to ensure they had done so.

He said he was not asked to issue potential punishment if his subordinates did not do so when they returned back to camp.

He did not know that the app contained counter-terrorism training material nor that there were e-learning modules he had to complete and is unsure whether the online reviewers of the app were unaware too.

The sergeant, 20, who has about 40 men under him, said the reviewers may also have misunderstood their own commanders, who could have been joking about the punishment.

Additional reporting by Clement Yong and Jose Hong

Official Launch of the SGSecure Movement -24 Sep 2016
MINDEF media Statement in Response to Queries on Mandatory Download of SGSecure App for Servicemen -28 Jul 2017

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