New SMS public alert system launched to warn the public of nearby emergencies

Members of public near an emergency will get a text message on their mobile devices informing them of what is happening through the recently launched SGSecure mobile app. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Members of public near an emergency like a terror attack will get a text message on their mobile devices informing them of what is happening, with a new public alert system by the Government.

Introducing the SMS-based system on Saturday (Oct 15) at an emergency preparedness event in Pasir Ris West, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that that the new system will reach out to a wider audience, who may not have access to alerts through the recently launched SGSecure mobile app.

"Some might not have turned on the location function to receive the location-based alerts. Some of our seniors may not be familiar with apps, or have older 2G phones," explained Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

A text message alert sent out by the SMS-based public alert system to warn people in the area of the Jurong West Street 41 fire on Tuesday (Oct 11). PHOTO: MHA

No additional set-up or phone configuration is needed to get the text message alerts, which are also supported on all mobile phones. A mobile data plan is also not needed to get the SMS alerts.

The new SMS-based public alert system is an additional channel to reach out to the public, help warn residents about danger, and give them appropriate advice on how they can and should respond, he added.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said that the alerts will be sent out for related incidents including bomb blasts and gunman attacks, major public order incidents, and major fires and civil disasters.

The police or Singapore Civil Defence Force will use the system to send out SMS alert messages through the telcos to people near the site of a major emergency. Mobile phone subscribers whose last known locations fall within the demarcated area around the site will get the SMS alerts.

The alert system is currently available to StarHub subscribers. It will be rolled out to Singtel and M1 subscribers by the end of 2017.

These SMS alerts, which are free, will be sent to both pre-paid and post-paid mobile subscribers. This includes foreign travellers roaming on the telcos' mobile networks, provided such text messages are not blocked by their parent telcos in the travellers' home countries.

The SMS alert system has been on trial since August, and was used for the recent fires at the CK Building and Jurong West Street 41.

Mr Teo also said that the SGSecure movement exercises the social, civil, psychological aspects of total defence.

Launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sept 24, the SGSecure movement is aimed at getting people to stay united in the face of terror threats, and providing training on preventing and responding to attacks.

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