SINGAPORE - The sounds of gunshots and shrieks pierced the air on Sunday morning (Nov 20), interrupting residents having their breakfast and doing their marketing at busy Block 20 Marsiling Drive.
But no one was hurt - it was an emergency drill simulating an armed terrorist attack in a cafe, injuring the owner and causing a customer to have a heart attack. Residents were told to "run, hide and tell" in such crisis situations.
The drill was part of Marsiling's Emergency Preparedness Day, organised as part of the nationwide SGSecure movement launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in September.
At the event, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Halimah Yacob also launched the Mata-Mata Kampong programme to encourage residents to look out for each other as "eyes and ears" of the community. Under the programme, volunteers from some 130 blocks will provide assistance to their neighbours, especially needy families and the elderly.
Social resilience is crucial to keeping Singapore safe and secure, said Madam Halimah, who is Speaker of Parliament, as she urged people to get to know one another regardless of race or religion.
"For people to want to protect Singapore, they must feel that they are being protected and taken care of. And it's not just in terms of having policemen and weapons, but also the feeling deep inside of being cared about by someone else," she told reporters.
So far, more than 300 residents have taken part in the pilot phase of the programme, which started in rental blocks 3 and 4 of Marsiling Drive a year ago. The aim is to have at least 600 block representatives by the end of this year, said Madam Halimah, who initiated the programme.
The volunteers attend first aid courses and help to relay information such as crime updates to residents. They also inform the constituency office of residents' needs.
Volunteer Jainah Awang, 68, a single mother, said she and other volunteers often bring food to elderly neighbours living alone. "In my 16 years living here I've seen elderly residents here who pass away alone, so I thought, why don't I volunteer and help others?" said Madam Jainah adding that they are now like family to her.
Another volunteer, undergraduate Jerry Toh, 27, said volunteers also help to alert the police of incidents that residents bring to their attention, such as people drinking and vomiting in the void decks.
"The programme is good for us too because we learn life skills such as what to do in emergency situations," said Mr Toh, who has attended courses in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation as part of the programme.
Later in the morning, Madam Halimah also attended a futsal tournament organised by Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC's Indian Activity Executive Committees and the People's Association Narpani unit, where she kicked off a game for the Marsiling Ladies Team.
Such events help residents bond and "develop confidence and trust in each other", so they feel they are part of a bigger community, Madam Halimah said in a speech.