Readying residents against terror
Shortly after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Singaporean Robert Ronald was in San Francisco for work.
He recalled how his well-meaning American colleagues warned him not to jog alone as he could be mistaken for a Muslim and get verbally abused or even beaten up.
The attacks, which brought down the World Trade Center towers in New York City, were co-ordinated by terrorist group Al-Qaeda, and had led to the rise of Islamophobia in some quarters.
The desire to avoid such a situation here was what spurred the strategy planner to participate in the Community Emergency and Engagement programme in Kolam Ayer.
As committee chairman for the last eight years, he organises constituency-wide "Emergency Preparedness Days" when there are terrorist attack simulations involving almost a thousand residents. He also conducts smaller-scale drills involving five to 10 Housing Board blocks.
Such events allow residents to learn skills like first-aid and proper evacuation methods, and also lets them interact with one another, he said.
"Many Singaporeans still feel that terrorist attacks here are unlikely," said Mr Ronald, 47, adding that he worries some people may do the "wrong thing" and stand in the open to video the aftermath of an attack.
"Sometimes there can be a second or third attack, so we need to practise how to run to a safe place, hide, and then tell the authorities when it's okay to do so," he said.
Learning to save lives
As a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade in his youth, taxi driver Yap Keng Ho has had his fair share of helping people in need, such as someone who suffered a heatstroke and another who had fractured his leg.
But the 55-year-old only came face to face with those in life-threatening situations when he joined SMRT's AED on Wheels programme last November.
Under the programme, about 100 drivers are trained to use an automated external defibrillator, and their cabs are fitted with the machine. It is aimed at buying time for those who suffer a heart attack, before Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers show up.
So far, Mr Yap has responded to more than 20 cases.
The unflappable man has even gone above and beyond his duty, to assist SCDF officers with the cases he has met by helping to insert a line for intravenous drips.
He gleaned his skills from taking care of his father, who suffered from pneumonia and died last year.
Mr Yap notes that not everyone may be able to rise to the challenge of learning how to use an automated external defibrillator.
"Some people can't handle the stress of seeing blood or being in a near-death situation.
"Training on the dummy was fun, but things are different once you have to use it," he said.
"But it is a device you should learn to use. You never know when you'll need to use it, or who you'll need to use it for."
Strengthening community bonds
Madam Saniah Rasban's neigbours know they can always turn to her for a chat or help with first aid.
The 56-year-old housewife is a Community Emergency Response Team first-aider, and has rushed to the scene of several traffic accidents in her Chong Pang neighbourhood.
On festive occasions like Hari Raya, she also opens up her home to neighbours and friends for a bite and some conversation.
Learning first-aid skills and being a friendly neighbour are just some of the ways she has adopted to strengthen community bonds.
It is her way of fighting the threat of terrorism.
"When I first read about terrorist attacks in the region, I got a bit scared," said Madam Saniah, who was certified in first aid seven years ago. "I wanted to do something to protect the people around me."
Given that a number of attacks have been initiated by "lone wolves" operating under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), she thinks it is important to strengthen Singapore's multiracial harmony in peacetime.
"I'm worried that if an ISIS attack happens, some people might think Muslims are at fault.
"But such people are not Muslims, they are on the wrong path," she said.
However, she is more confident than she is concerned, as most Singaporeans she sees are on good terms with one another.
"We just need to learn to give and take," she said.