Military activities: Better public notification system needed

The loud noises heard by members of the public in various parts of the island on April 27 had no doubt caused much anxiety (Loud noises, vibrations reported across Singapore, April 28).

This was exacerbated by the time taken by the police, who had no information about the incident, to investigate and issue a statement.

This episode should not be taken lightly.

There is a need for the authorities to be able to promptly verify and confirm the nature of any unusual incidents, especially in these times when people are generally in a heightened state of anxiety over any suspicious occurrences.

It is not enough for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to rely on posting live-firing exercise details on its website, issuing media advisories and publishing Notices to Airmen (Notams) (SAF keeps public informed of military activities, May 4).

These channels have limited use.

The SAF cannot expect the man in the street to be constantly monitoring live firing areas and timings highlighted on its website in order not to be caught off-guard.

It is also not realistic to expect all media advisories issued to be widely publicised as, even if this is done, it becomes too routine for anyone to take notice of them.

Information sent out via Notams largely attracts the attention of only those in the aviation sector.

The bottom line is that when an abnormal blast is heard, there must be systems to enable quick verification and confirmation by the authorities to allay public concerns.

As someone who heard and felt the blast on that day, I can say the experience was without precedence and quite unnerving.

The unusual effect of the blast should have been anticipated by those managing the exercise, and more robust public announcements could have been made to alert the public in advance.

Perhaps, the Ministry of Defence needs to alert the police before and upon termination of major live-firing exercises, so that the latter has current information to address public concerns more readily.

The SAF should review its procedures, drawing lessons learnt from this incident for better emergency public communication.

N. Subhas

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Military activities: Better public notification system needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe