The Straits Times says

Closing ranks to thwart terrorists

Pulling together is the instinctive response of security teams following major attacks launched by terrorists. Tracking sources of threats, thwarting any follow-up attacks, and calming a traumatised public call for different specialists who have to work hand in hand to safeguard a city. Singapore is no different in upgrading its measures across different fields. New Emergency Response Teams, equipped with counter-assault skills and weapons, will be activated when threats arise, together with second wave forces like the Special Operations Command, which now has rapid deployment troops, and the Gurkha Contingent. Even the Police Coast Guard will get a boost from an emergency response force.

To facilitate speedy communication and better coordination of ground responses, officers from the Police Force, Civil Defence Force, Central Narcotics Bureau, and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority will be brought together at the Police Operations Command Centre, as heard recently.

Other cities are also girding themselves for potential crises, spurred by a grim roll-call of deadly terror incidents. Stockholm in Sweden saw a truck plough into a crowd outside a department store this month. That echoed the truck attack in the French city of Nice last July which killed 84 people, as well as the car-and-knife rampage last month near the British Parliament. Transport nodes have been targeted like Brussels Airport in Belgium last year. And major events have not been spared either, such as the Boston Marathon four years ago. Consequently, public security is getting tighter. New York City screens New Year Eve revellers and arms police with chemical, radiation and explosive detection devices. Other places too have adopted stringent measures.

Naturally, security forces alone are not enough. People at large must be invested in their own safety. For example, building operators and event organisers should take protective steps when the need arises and people must take these in their stride. When feasible, technology ought to be harnessed to maintain vigilance. Such moves will have a financial impact on businesses and event organisers, but there is no running away from the need to pay – and share – the price of being safe rather than sorry.

Active citizenry can also make a crucial difference. Individuals can save lives in emergencies, when they render first aid after being notified via the myResponder app about nearby cardiac arrest cases. Collectively, public participation in the SGSecure national programme can help the authorities stay on top of fast-moving incidents. None of these steps ought to deter people from enjoying public spaces and events despite the times – that would be to allow terrorists to hold the spirit of a city hostage. As theologian Augustine of Hippo noted, “such as we are, such are the times”.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'Closing ranks to thwart terrorists'. Print Edition | Subscribe