Firms 'need plans to deal with emergencies'

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam speaks during the launch of Temasek Foundation Cares' resilience programme on Sept 7, 2016.
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam speaks during the launch of Temasek Foundation Cares' resilience programme on Sept 7, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The Government is to review legislation to give the Home Affairs Minister power to direct businesses to put in place measures to deal with the terror threat.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced this yesterday, without giving further details, but said businesses need to boost surveillance and have continuity plans in place to ensure staff know how to deal with emergencies.

"It's not a popular message when there is economic uncertainty, when we need to tell people to put in more CCTV cameras, harden their infrastructure and other things," said Mr Shanmugam.

"Unfortunately, this is a cost that terrorists are imposing on us. Either we pay the cost now, or we pay the cost in some other way later."

He was speaking at the launch of a new three-year study aimed at developing a framework to help businesses cope with the aftermath of emergencies and stay resilient.

The Stay Prepared - Business Psychological Resilience Programme (B-Prep) will help businesses and their employees deal with the psychological and emotional impact of emergencies. This could include having staff trained in crisis intervention who can provide emotional support to colleagues.

The initiative is spearheaded by Temasek Foundation Cares, Changi General Hospital and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF).

Mr Shanmugam said firms should have business continuity plans, so staff are trained and know what to do in the event of an emergency like a terrorist attack. "This message has to go to everyone, at every level, and percolate down. It can only happen by having workshops, table-top exercises and walking through the scenarios," he said.

SBF assistant executive director Koh Tat Liang said few businesses have continuity plans because it is not mandatory, and smaller businesses might not have the resources to put one in place.

"The key thing is to make sure companies appreciate why they have to be ready to continue their operations despite the crisis," said Mr Koh, adding that he hoped costs for businesses would be kept low if the Government decided to make such plans compulsory.

Yesterday, Temasek Holdings chairman Lim Boon Heng said B-Prep would complement government programmes like SG Secure and Total Defence. SG Secure, a national movement, will be launched later this month. It aims to get people to be united in the event of a terror attack. Total Defence is a framework for responding to threats that seeks to involve all Singaporeans.

"When critical incidents happen, employers have to manage the impact on victims and their families. That may include employees, customers, partners and the general public," said Mr Lim.

For now, B-Prep will involve nine of Temasek's portfolio companies, including SMRT, Singapore Power and CapitaLand. It will be launched through the SBF when completed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline 'Firms 'need plans to deal with emergencies''. Print Edition | Subscribe