Sunday, January 15, 2006

Emergency exercises held at Serangoon Garden, Bedok North

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 15 January 2006 1859 hrs

SINGAPORE : Hundreds of residents and volunteers took up their respective positions in a emergency exercises at Serangoon Garden and Bedok North on Sunday.

A simulated car bomb exploded outside Chomp Chomp hawker centre at Serangoon Gardens around 11am, followed by another blast metres away.

That was the cue for the police and rescue workers to swing into action.

Some 120 grassroots leaders from the Constituency Emergency Response Team were also activated to help with casualty evacuation.

They have been trained to provide first aid and basic fire-fighting skills during emergencies.

About 13,000 shops and residential units around the area had been notified in advance of the largest emergency exercise of its kind in Serangoon district.

Almost all the roads leading to Serangoon Garden Circus were closed for over two hours to faciliiate the execution of the exercise.

It was an eye-opener for many residents but some felt the exercise could have been more realistic.

Said resident Tracy Ooi, "Don't let us know so early, don't let us be prepared; maybe like just get a normal crowd on a Sunday afternoon, maybe a few minutes before it happens."

Another resident, Yeo Yee Peng, said, "If it's a real thing, there'll be a lot of cars. At the same time I don't think the police will come here in five minutes; it's just a rehearsal. As a rehearsal it's good but in a real situation, it'll be more chaotic than this."

To minimise chaos during a crisis, the constituency also launched the Temporary Assembly Areas where residents could gather.

The aim of the whole exercise was to test the readiness of the volunteers and raise awareness.

Said Lim Hwee Hua, MP for Marine Parade GRC, "I want to bring it down to a local level, so that the ones who are not normally reached by news, or who don't follow news can actually see it visually and start asking questions like can this happen here and what do I do if something like this happens."

Over in Bedok North, a suspicious package blew up in the neighbourhood during an emergency drill.

Residents saw how the Civil Defence Force conducted its decontamination and rescue operation.

These are among several exercises which took place over the past week.

But will such drills lull people into a false sense of security?

Said George Yeo, Foreign Affairs Minister and MP for Aljunied GRC, "They know this is playacting, but they will learn, they will see what are the things that will happen; they will see the kind of assistance that will be forthcoming. I think mentally this will help people. A real situation will never be the same as the one you exercise."

As part of the emergency evacuation procedure, new assembly point signs will be placed at lift landings and staircases at HDB blocks in Aljunied GRC to direct residents to safety.

A total of 150,000 residents will benefit from the GRC-wide project.

Separately, 1,500 volunteers from the North East District will also be sent for training in basic life saving skills. - CNA /ct