Prepare schools better for terrorist attacks

The recently foiled plans by terrorists to attack Singapore bring home the fact that such attacks are no longer remote events we watch through television or social media ("Batam terrorist plot shows how serious terrorism threat against Singapore is: Shanmugam"; ST Online, last Saturday).

They can happen any place and at any time in our heartland. While we have launched the national programme SG Secure to counter terrorism, more can be done to beef up the security and emergency preparedness of our schools.

The SG Secure programme focuses primarily on stepping up vigilance through closed-circuit television cameras, tightening security at major public events and buildings, better trained emergency response through the police and other security forces, and preparing the public through drills and various campaigns.

However, there does not seem to be much about beefing up security in schools. I suggest the following:

  • Consider an alternative alarm for a terrorist attack in school. The current fire alarm calls for evacuation. However, in certain types of attack, the best plan may be for students to be kept secure in the classroom or designated venues.
  • Classrooms should be equipped with bolt locks so that teachers can lock the children in the classroom when they hear the alarm, especially if there are attackers lurking outside.
  • Schools should be equipped with distress buttons at strategic locations, connected to the police network, so that a speedy response can be expected.
  • Mock terrorist attack drills should be carried out more often in schools to raise awareness and better prepare staff and students in the event of such attacks.

Ng Tze Yik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'Prepare schools better for terrorist attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe