Terror acts can come like a bolt from the blue, vigilance volunteers told

Singaporeans must keep their eyes and ears open as acts of terror can come "like a bolt from the blue".

Just like the recent suicide bombings in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, as well as the Paris shootings, these acts can happen "anytime, any day and anywhere", said Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development, yesterday.

"Suspicious characters... don't always wear black hats, they don't always have music in the background, it's not like (in the) movies," he added at an event yesterday at Jurong West to train some 240 volunteers in safeguarding the community against potential terror attacks.

The session, organised by the People's Association (PA), is the first in a new series of Community Vigilance Workshops starting this month. The workshops are for PA's Community Emergency Response Team (Cert) volunteers, who are now trained in first aid and emergency response skills. They have also been trained by the police on safety, observation skills and crime prevention measures.

PA aims to train about 2,000 team leaders by March next year, and another 5,000 Cert members by the end of next year. They will be equipped with knowledge about global terrorism and how to identify suspicious behaviour of people. They will also learn how to handle situations involving suspicious objects, and deal with the aftermath of attacks and the recovery measures.

Yesterday, Mr Lee told the volunteers that terrorism is a deep-seated part of history but has evolved over time. "In the past, it's always hostage-taking. Now, it is lone-wolf, maximum casualties, innocent people," he said.

"We want to prevent (terror attacks), and then if and when it happens, we want to be prepared. Prevention is not just the role of the men and women in uniform."

Madam Nancy Low, a 72-year-old retired nurse and a Cert volunteer, said: "With the recent terrorist attacks, we need to be more sensitive to things in our surroundings. Singaporeans tend to be over-confident and take safety for granted."

Another volunteer, Mr Abdul Razak Ali, 50, a tour guide, said it is important to be alert. "We must show that it is possible for people of different races and religions to work together to keep Singapore safe."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'Terror acts can come like a bolt from the blue, vigilance volunteers told'. Print Edition | Subscribe