Draft at 31 Mar 06 by runout



Commissioner James Tan,
Officers of the Singapore Civil Defence Force,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening.

     The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has grown over the
last 25 years to become a highly respected professional organization.
This is a view of the SCDF held not just in Singapore but by similar
professional organizations outside Singapore. Driven by strong
leadership and the deep commitment of the men and women of the
SCDF, it has grown to become a total emergency service provider.

2    The SCDF is today capable of mitigating fires, medical
emergencies, Hazardous Material or HAZMAT and Chemical,
Biological, Radiological or Explosive (CBRE) incidents, rescue and
extraction from collapsed structures and so on. In just about any civil
disaster in Singapore, the SCDF is the front-line in the management of
the incident. The SCDF in partnership with the Singapore Police Force
forms the backbone of the Home Team’s operational response
capabilities to homefront civil emergencies and crises.

3    The transformation of the SCDF from a Fire Service and a
Vigilante Corp is something which every officer in the SCDF is proud

of. On this note, I would like to add my best wishes to the Force on its
25th anniversary this year.

Workyear 2004/2005

4     The last work year was truly eventful. We saw the international
community coming together in a powerful statement of friendship and
support as they joined hands to help other nations hit by some of the
worst natural disasters in our time. Singapore, too, played a part as we
contributed both in cash and in kind, as well as dispatched the SCDF
Lion Heart contingent to help in the relief effort. During the Sumatran
Fire, Sumatran Earthquake and South Asian Earthquake last year, the
SCDF responded quickly with rescue contingents to Indonesia and

5     However, even though Singapore was spared from natural
disasters, the unusually hot and dry spell in the early months of 2005
severely tested the capabilities of the SCDF. Approximately 500
vegetation fire cases – both big and small – were recorded in the first
three months of the year alone. We have learnt a great deal from
these episodes. As a result, SCDF has worked out enhanced
contingency plans, SOPs and pre-emptive actions together with other
related government agencies and major land-owning bodies to ensure
a more effective operational response if the same problem happens
again in the future.

6    On the whole, I note that the number of fire incidents at the
residential, commercial and industrial premises have dropped across
the board by some 200 cases. This shows that your ongoing
community engagement and fire-safety awareness public education
drive, together with the National Fire Prevention Council, Fire Safety
Manager’s Association of Singapore, and the Civil Defence Executive
Committees are bearing fruit.

Exercise Northstar V

7    We started 2006 on a high note with Exercise NorthStar V on 8
Jan. Over 3,000 commuters were involved in the exercise and another
10,000 commuters were affected by the disruption to the MRT
network. There were also 22 participating agencies from a wide cross
section of Government ranging from policy makers to emergency
responders, healthcare providers and public transport operators.
Exercise NorthStar V is a first for us in terms of the scale and sheer
number of real commuters being put through an exercise on the public
transport   system.    The   exercise   has   been   well   received   by

8    One of the key lessons learnt from Exercise NorthStar V is the
value of including the public in exercises. As has been seen in many
incidents elsewhere, the real first-responders to a disaster scene are

the people who are there. Many lives can be saved by fellow members
of the public who help the injured or trapped when disaster strikes. In
Exercise Northstar V, our public got a first-hand experience in mock
scenario which nevertheless could happen.

9     In conducting such an exercise, it is inevitable that there would
be some inconvenience to the public. In Exercise NorthStar V, 13 MRT
stations and Toa Payoh bus interchange were temporarily closed for
the duration of the exercise. In my view, when it comes to security, we
should not cut corners. We should continue to sensitise our public and
help prepare them to deal with a real crisis. An important part of this is
to encourage more members of the public to learn emergency
preparedness skills, and to treat emergency preparedness as a way of
life so that they can be mentally prepared for any crisis situation.

Challenges Ahead

10          The challenges ahead for the SCDF remain significant
given the present outlook on regional and international security. In the
face of a terrorist threat which has shown a deadly creativity in staging
attacks for mass casualties, the disaster consequence management
scenarios of the future which the SCDF will confront will be more
complex and more challenging.

11           For us to effectively fulfill such demanding roles under
such pressure, we must remain vigilant and adaptable and continue to
pursue new ways to enhance our emergency readiness and
operational efficacy. In this regard, SCDF should continue to embark
on the journey of innovation and implement changes force-wide. New
ideas should be injected into your doctrines, policies and machineries
to further heighten the SCDF’s operational capabilities; and new
technologies should be leveraged upon to sharpen your core

Communications Edge

12           Having swift access to information can boost field
operations. During the 911 attacks, communications capability
collapsed soon after the incident. To prevent or minimize such a
collapse in communications capability, I am glad that the SCDF will be
working towards boosting its “Crisis Information Management System”,
or CIMS, by integrating it with other Police and MHA command and
control system – thereby expanding its robustness, applications and

13           I understand that the “Hazmat Incident Management
System”, as well as the “Early Availability of Ground Situation for
Leaders’ Evaluation” or EAGLE Project are also in the pipeline. The
former will provide extensive Hazmat database and analysis tools to

support mitigation operations for chemical, biological, radiological and
explosive incidents. EAGLE, on the other hand, will provide
instantaneous relay of mission-critical video and data from the incident
site to the SCDF Command Post, thus facilitating informed decision-
making and enhancing command-and-control.

The “Ready” Community

14         However, no amount of cutting-edge technology can save
lives if the people themselves are not prepared.      The SCDF must
therefore continue to work with and keep the community engaged and
trained in emergency preparedness procedures and drills. Hence, I am
pleased that SCDF will be rolling out new initiatives to help the
community take up civil defence in the coming months.

15         One such initiative which I am happy to unveil is the setting
up of the Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) for volunteers. This is a
good move towards building up a body of life-savers. I believe the
CDAU will serve well to augment the regular officers of the SCDF in
many ways. There are many professionals with suitable life-saving
skills in our society. There are also many in our neighbourhoods who
would not hesitate to come forward to help others in distress.

16         We know this through the many brave and selfless acts of
public spiritedness that we have recognized and commended over the

years. In fact, the recent case in Miss Esther Tan who saved a 72-
year-old’s life through CPR speaks volumes of the need for ready life-
savers in our community. This is a spirit that is well and alive among
us, and I am sure the new Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit will be able to
tap onto this precious resource and enhance the level of preparedness
among our people.

17          But volunteers aside, even ordinary Singaporeans can play
a part. Householders can prepare their own Ready Bags to provide for
their families’ needs in any crisis. We need also to pay attention to the
peacetime emergencies on a day-to-day basis. Last year alone, the
SCDF responded to more than 5,000 fires, over 1,600 rescue incidents
and some 88,000 medical emergencies. Many of these fires were
rubbish chute fires caused by irresponsible or careless behaviour of
residents. These could have been avoided.

18          Over the years, more member of our community have
become more prepared. Our residents are also more open and
welcoming of drills, exhibitions and exercises. Community participation
in SCDF activities has increased noticeably, with young and old alike
taking the time to visit exhibitions, take part in the evacuation drills as
well as observe the Emergency Preparedness Day exercises held in
their constituencies.

19   I know we still have a long way to go. But with the increase in the
number of EP Days to be held this coming workyear, I hope that it will
enhance our outreach efforts to educate more people on what to do
during emergencies.      Through the EP Days, the SCDF should
reinforce the “My Ready Bag” programme so that ownership in
emergency preparedness can become entrenched.

The Life-Saving Force

20         Through this workplan seminar, I know that you have once
again set for yourselves high standards to be met, and challenging
targets to be achieved in the months ahead. I am confident that you
will once again push yourself to achieve your set objectives.

21   Thank you for all the good work that each and everyone of you
has put in to make Singapore a safer home for all.


To top