Paris attacks give Home Team exercise new significance

In the second simulated scenario at Esplanade Park, office workers were affected by the explosion. SCDF staff cutting open a victim's clothes for the decontamination process after a chemical agent attack. In the first simulation, office workers at On
In the first simulation, office workers at One Marina Boulevard were left in fits and foaming at the mouth after the chemical nerve agent Sarin was released.ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
In the second simulated scenario at Esplanade Park, office workers were affected by the explosion. SCDF staff cutting open a victim's clothes for the decontamination process after a chemical agent attack. In the first simulation, office workers at On
In the second simulated scenario at Esplanade Park, office workers were affected by the explosion. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
In the second simulated scenario at Esplanade Park, office workers were affected by the explosion. SCDF staff cutting open a victim's clothes for the decontamination process after a chemical agent attack. In the first simulation, office workers at On
SCDF staff cutting open a victim's clothes for the decontamination process after a chemical agent attack. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN
In the Marina Bay exercise, front-line firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene within eight minutes. Dressed in chemical agent suits, they focused mainly on rescue and evacuation of casualties.
In the Marina Bay exercise, front-line firefighters were the first to arrive on the scene within eight minutes. Dressed in chemical agent suits, they focused mainly on rescue and evacuation of casualties. ST PHOTO: NG HUIWEN
SCDF staff helping a chemical attack victim in yesterday's exercise. Now in its seventh year, the simulation exercise was led by the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force, and involved a total of 242 officers and community particip
SCDF staff helping a chemical attack victim in yesterday's exercise. Now in its seventh year, the simulation exercise was led by the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force, and involved a total of 242 officers and community participants. ST PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN

Annual anti-terror exercise even more important now, critical for S'pore to stay vigilant: Senior minister of state

An annual anti-terror exercise led by the Home Team forces yesterday took on extra significance, in the wake of last week's Paris attacks.

Codenamed Exercise Heartbeat, a series of "terror attacks" unfolded among office workers in the heart of the Central Business District in a bid to test the emergency preparations and joint response of the Home Team during a crisis.

Now in its seventh year, the simulation exercise was led by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). A total of 242 officers and community participants were involved.

"The recent attacks in Paris remind us that a terrorist attack can occur at any time and in any place," said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, who was present to observe the exercise.

"No country is immune and it is critical that we remain vigilant and prepared at all times."

CONCERTED EFFORT

Such drills allow the public and private sectors to collaborate together to ensure the safety of the community.

SAFETY AND SECURITY WATCH GROUP MEMBER TAN TIEW HIN

He also reiterated that such exercises at the national, company and community levels are "important first steps" in building the public's readiness in the event of a terror attack. "It's not just the Home Team, but the entire community, businesses, families and individuals," he added.

In the first simulated scenario, a group of office workers at One Marina Boulevard were left in fits and foaming at the mouth after the chemical nerve agent Sarin was released.

(In 1995, the colourless and odourless gas was used in coordinated attacks on the Tokyo subway system, leaving 13 dead and 6,000 injured.)

Front-line firefighters from Marina Bay fire station were the first to arrive on the scene within eight minutes. Dressed in chemical agent suits, they focused mainly on rescue and evacuation of casualties.

Outside, victims were decontaminated with the use of soap and water after their clothes were removed, as hazardous materials specialists wearing high-performance suits worked to locate, contain and mitigate the chemical source.

Shortly after, a loud explosion was heard at Esplanade Park, in another simulated terror attack that left more than 20 office workers injured. They had earlier evacuated their offices because of the discovery of a suspicious vehicle inside the building.

The blast was caused by an improvised explosive device planted by a lone terrorist, who returned to the scene soon after being armed with a gun. For several minutes, SPF front-line officers engaged in a fierce firefight with the terrorist before arresting him.

Mr Lee said: "The objective of terrorism is to sow discord, create fear and a sense of mistrust, and so the strongest weapon that we have against terrorism is unity, cohesion and resilience."

He added that Singapore should never allow the fear of terrorism or the occurrence of a terror attack to divide people, adding that "if that's the case, then (the terrorists) would have won".

Yesterday's exercise also involved members of the Safety and Security Watch Group (SSWG), an initiative by the Home Team to involve businesses and firms in security efforts.

SSWG member Tan Tiew Hin said: "Such drills allow the public and private sectors to collaborate together to ensure the safety of the community."

Through Project Guardian, another Home Team-led public-private initiative, SSWG members are also taught basic first aid and firefighting skills.

Earlier yesterday morning, another scenario featuring a simulated terrorist swarm attack took place at the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh between 1am and 4.30am.

The final phase of the exercise will be held next Monday at the Sentosa Golf Club and Sentosa Cove Village from 9am to 12pm. It will involve a suicide bomber and gunman attack.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Paris attacks give Home Team exercise new significance'. Print Edition | Subscribe