Businesses have key role in anti-terror strategy: DPM Teo

He sets out ways in which they can ensure workers and workplaces are ready to handle a terror attack

DPM Teo Chee Hean speaking at the National Security Conference 2017.
DPM Teo Chee Hean speaking at the National Security Conference 2017. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Businesses are a key pillar in Singapore's overall strategy to fortify the country and keep it safe against terror attacks, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security, set out ways they can get their workplace and workers ready to deal with the destruction and trauma in the event of a terror attack.

These include training workers on emergency preparedness such as first aid and in using defibrillators on people suffering cardiac arrests, as well as training business leaders to identify risks and develop risk-management plans.

To help them, SGSecure Guide For Workplaces, a guidebook that lays out in simple and concrete steps what companies can do, was launched yesterday. It will be given to about 151,000 companies by early next year.

These moves were unveiled at an annual national security conference attended by about 520 business representatives and government officials.

The moves are being made as the terrorist threat to Singapore is at its highest level since 2001, when the Jemaah Islamiah terror group was dismantled, said Mr Teo.

And this week, the authorities confirmed that a fighter in an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda video on social media is a Singaporean named Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad.

Also, 11 Singaporeans have been detained and another six issued with Restriction Orders since 2015, more than in the seven years before that.

ISIS and its affiliates are active in the region, Mr Teo said, citing the Marawi conflict in the southern Philippines, the seizure of bomb-making chemicals in Java and the arrest of ISIS supporters in Malaysia.

It was against this backdrop that the SGSecure movement was launched last year, to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to such threats. Yesterday, Mr Teo laid out key areas for businesses to work on.

First, employees must be equipped to protect themselves and their colleagues in an attack.

The public sector will take the lead in preparing its officers for such an emergency, said Mr Teo.

Second, businesses must have contingency plans to protect their workplaces from terror threats. The bizSafe framework has been enhanced to guide them.

Underlining the importance of contingency plans, Mr Teo cited how Morgan Stanley's plan and evacuation drills saved most of its employees in the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

When the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York was struck, the firm's director of security told its employees in the South Tower to leave immediately.

Mr Teo said: "Employees were already on their way down the stairs when the South Tower was hit about 20 minutes later.''

Third, companies can partner their communities to strengthen vigilance and boost their ability to respond to crises together.

Mr Teo pointed to an exercise last month to test the finance industry's contingency plans against physical and cyber attacks. It involved financial institutions, building managements and government agencies.


He also called on the business community to help build social cohesion and trust as these will help Singapore recover from an attack.

"Our racial and religious harmony is a key strength," he said.

Other steps that the Government will take include simulation exercises, especially in five priority sectors where large crowds gather: food and beverage, retail, entertainment, hotels and transport.

Singapore Business Federation chairman Teo Siong Seng said at the conference that while businesses are more aware of the severity of terror threats, their level of preparedness is not up to par. "Companies cited difficulty getting staff buy-in as (employees) do not expect terror attacks to happen in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'Businesses have key role in anti-terror strategy: DPM Teo'. Subscribe