1 Dec 2010, 6.39PM
In a recent experiment by the Police, in which cars rigged with tell-tale signs of a bomb were left at nine locations including Orchard Road and Shenton Way, only 260 people out of the 7,200 people who passed within 10 metres of the rigged vehicles noticed them. Of these, only 52 people alerted the Police or the Civil Defence.
Speaking at the annual National Security Seminar earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Wong Kan Seng said that the experiment showed that Singaporeans appear complacent about the possibility of a terrorist attack, and that a mindset change is needed as people have become less vigilant about security matters over time.
REACH contributors weighed in on the findings of this experiment as well as how we can enhance awareness of the importance of staying vigilant.
Some express disappointment at the results of the experiment, noting that it reflects a low level of civic consciousness currently. They believe that every citizen should see it as their duty to alert the authorities of potential threats.
However, many others defended the lack of responsiveness, contending that the nonchalant attitude of passers-by may be attributed to the perceived consequences of making a potentially false report, such as getting into trouble with the law for making a false report, or having to assist with investigations, which can be time-consuming. A handful, however, express disappointment that some would focus on inconvenience caused to oneself, when lives are potentially at stake.
Aside from the inconvenience to individuals, some note that our upbringing, too, results in Singaporeans being more reserved and restrained in public, and not wanting to interfere or be “busybodies”. Some also acknowledge that they would be unsure which authority to approach if they were to encounter such a situation themselves. They suggest that an “easy-to-recall” hotline be specially set up for suspected terrorist acts.
While some call for more of such exercises to be conducted to raise civic awareness, a handful of contributors caution that such experiments should not be conducted too frequently, as people could mistake a real threat for just another exercise, should the situation ever arise.
Contributors also call for relevant personnel, such as MRT security officers and bus drivers to be trained to assess and react swiftly, including in leading evacuation or remedial efforts in the case of a perceived threat. Other suggestions include:
- Creating a new avenue, in the form of a new toll-free number or SMS platform, for citizens to direct their queries or observations on suspected security or terrorism issues; and
- Conducting more drills in schools and work places, and public campaigns to raise awareness on how citizens should react to potential security or terror situations.
Selected Contributors' Quotes
“This could probably be another case of complacency and I guess we may need more of such exercises to increase Singaporeans’ awareness on their readiness and the importance to remain vigilant.” – Fishy, via discussion forum
“It is our civic duty to react and report when something doesn't seem right. We can't expect the police, our civil defence etc to know that something has taken place if the public doesn't do its duty to alert them right? In times of emergency, it's okay to be "kiasi" by quickly reporting the abnormalities.” – Guest via discussion forum
“The problem is no one likes to call police especially when unsure… No one wants to be accused of being a hoaxer… One suggestion might be to create a new police SMS number. Most mobile phones have camera today. It doesn't take long to take a picture and SMS to police with address, or better still, GPS coordinates. The police can identify whether there is a threat or not themselves and no issue of being arrested for false report.” – Neutral Party, via discussion forum