Is It Time To Hand National Security Over To The Public?

On 24th September the government of Singapore launched “SG Secure”, a national initiative designed to combat the threat of a terrorist attack on the island city state. SG Secure is built on 3 core pillars: Vigilance, Cohesion and Resilience and according to the official website, “These 3 pillars come together to form the shield that protects Singapore. The shield signifies the strength and tenacity of Singapore’s society in our fight against terrorism.” This is serious stuff, so much so that the launch was led by the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

So, how does SG Secure work? Essentially, it’s a national movement to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to play a part to prevent, and deal with a terrorist attack. It is a call to action for everyone to unite and safeguard the Singaporean way of life. It comes in direct response to Islamic State’s English language magazine, Dabiq, listing Singapore as a member of the anti-ISIS coalition and in recognition that some Singaporeans have travelled to Syria to fight for IS and some of those fighters are now returning home.

The SG Secure slogan reads “Stay Alert. Stay United. Stay Strong.” Each of these components is broken down further and each provides detailed advice for citizens to follow;eye-211610_1920

Stay Alert: Focusses on encouraging Singaporeans to look out for the tell tale signs of suspicious activities or behaviour within their neighbourhoods. It goes into great detail about what to look out for, including signs of radicalisation and identifying those who support violence and are sympathetic to terrorists and their causes. Stay Alert also contains advice on identifying the symbols and insignia of terrorist organisations and those who might influence others to support or participate in terrorist activities.

Stay Alert goes further and teaches people how to spot suspicious articles, behaviour and vehicles. The SG Secure website even contains a simple guide on how to report relevant information to the police including how to provide an accurate description of suspicious people, articles and behaviour.

Stay United: The Singapore government clearly recognises the importance of having a united community as a deterrent to the fear and division terrorists seek to spread. Stay United looks at ways communities and those from different religious backgrounds can counter the methodologies used by terror groups, by learning more about the different cultures, races and religious practices of those who live in Singapore. Given that Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, creeds and languages, this is a smart step.

Stay United also provides a checklist of things to do after a terror attack in order that communities can work together during a time of difficulty and adversity. There’s even a Stay United “kit” for communities, which can be downloaded.

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Stay Strong: Examines the response to a terror attack and what people can do to protect themselves and their fellow citizens. There’s advice on how to react to an active shooter situation using the “Run, Hide, Tell” (Run, Hide, Fight in the US) approach, but Stay Strong goes further, much further. It also teaches Singaporeans improvised first aid skills to treat injuries by using commonly available items and proactively encourages them to sign up to a Community Emergency Preparedness Programme (CEPP) with the Singapore Civil Defence Force, where they can learn more advanced medical skills, including dealing with fractures, burns, bleeding, patient immobilisation, CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). The course also has modules on fire safety and casualty evacuation, emergency procedures for both peacetime (including natural disasters) and wartime. The final module is all about terrorism and covers everything from bomb threats through to biological and chemical attacks.

Finally Stay Strong looks at how to cope psychologically with a terror attack including dealing with survivors guilt and even goes so far as to offer psychological first aid courses with the Singaporean Red Cross. connected-1327191_1280

So, does SG Secure represent a masterstroke in combatting the threat posed by terrorism by creating a trained and aware population or is it a huge step towards a Big Brother society? Surely any initiative that equips citizens with lifesaving skills has to be applauded and given the threat factors, this will certainly make the terrorists job much harder. The question is whether it could work in major European and North American cities?

Singapore has a population of 5.6 million people, which is certpolice-1355512_1920ainly less than London and New York, but is a lot more than cities like Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo and Chicago. Should western governments follow Singapore’s lead and utilise their citizens in the fight against terror and train them with the skills necessary to be a tangible asset in national security tool kit? The police in the UK have been running Project Griffin courses for a number of years now, but that’s a drop in the counter terrorism ocean compared to what SG Secure offers.Any such initiatives will always have supporters and detractors, but where national security is concerned, surely we all have a part to play. Singapore is being proactive in its approach to terrorism and in doing so is giving its citizens a chance to make a difference in their communities and to their national security.

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