'Gunmen' overpowered at West Coast Community Centre in anti-terror exercise

SINGAPORE - An explosion followed in quick succession by gunshots fired by two "gunmen" rang out outside the West Coast Community Centre on Sunday morning. (Apr 15).  Both "attackers" were quickly brought down after a brief shootout with the police.

It was all part of a simulated exercise, aimed at educating residents on what to do in an emergency such as text messaging the police and providing basic first aid.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr S. Iswaran, who is an MP for West Coast GRC, said it was important for members of the community to be able to do their part should a crisis occur.

Mr Iswaran, who viewed the exercise, said the threat of terrorism was real, pointing to incidents such as the vehicle-ramming attacks in France and Britain in recent years as well as December's subway bombing in New York City.

"While they seem far away from us, we never know whether it can happen here," he said.

Radicalisation in South-east Asia remains a cause of concern, said Mr Iswaran, pointing to the example of Singaporean Megat Shahdan Abdul Samad, who appeared in a video last year urging people in the region to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and to fight in the the conflicts in Marawi in the Philippines as well as Rakhine state in Myanmar.

Mr Iswaran called on residents to support SGSecure, which is aimed at preparing citizens to respond in the event of a terrorist attack.

"The more volunteers and the more people who know what to do, the better prepared we'll be and the more lives we can save," he said.

He noted that 60 shopholders in the West Coast area had been trained in firefighting and life-saving skills under the Merchants on CERTS (Community Emergency Response Team) Patrol programme since 2015.

Mr Tan Tuang Siang, who chairs the West Coast Community Emergency and Engagement Committee, said the committee would continue in its efforts to conduct more first aid and life-saving classes, educating residents in skills such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as well as the use of automated external defibrillators (AED)

Shopkeeper Mr Bernard Thia said the skills he learned came to use recently when he was able to assist a man who collapsed while eating at a hawker centre. He was able to clear vomit in the man's throat,  even as he called for an ambulance.

"Many people rushed down when they saw what happened, but they didn't know what to do," said the 70-year-old, who is the chairman of the West Coast Drive Merchants' Association.

"I think everyone should learn these skills."