The Ministry of Education (MOE) informed that schools in Singapore conduct emergency drills such as lockdown and fire drills for students at least twice a year.
In response to queries sent from CNA, MOE explained the current emergency drill procedures that are followed in schools.
They shared that the aim of this exercise is to raise awareness on the need for vigilance.
Emergency Drills In Schools Conducted Twice a Year
Speaking about lockdown drills, which include the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ response, MOE said that they are activated in case of a terrorist threat on school premises.
However, they can be applied to other forms of security threats as well, for instance, the River Valley High School incident.
A Ministry spokesperson added that the non-MOE members like the canteen stallholders, the cleaners and security guards also take part in these drills.
The ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ response was introduced in 2016, as part of the Singapore community’s response to deal with the threat of terrorism.
River Valley High School Incident: How ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ Response Was Implemented
Image courtesy: Stock
MOE shared in detail how the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ response was implemented on the day of the River Valley High School murder.
On July 19, at River Valley High School, students performed the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ response, when the accused was holding an axe right outside the toilet and told them to call the police.
The students quickly went inside their classroom, they locked the doors from inside and called their form teachers for help.
It is actually believed to be the first time that the response was carried out for an actual situation inside school premises. (These emergency drills in schools teach students how to look for tell-tale signs in case of a potential security threat.)
Here’s a timeline of how the horrific incident unfolded on that day:
- A group of students encounter a Sec 4 student outside the toilet. He was seen with an axe towards the end of the lunch break.
- They return to their classroom and inform their teacher.
- The Sec 4 student, standing with the axe, asks another group of students in the classroom next to the toilet to call the police.
- The students then follow the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ emergency lockdown drill. They go inside their classroom, lock the doors and call their form teachers for help.
- A teacher soon arrives at the scene and asks the Sec 4 student to put down the axe. The student agrees and is taken away to the meeting room.
- Other teachers call the police and check the toilet.
- About 10 minutes later, the police arrive and take the 16-year-old Sec 4 student into custody.
- The police officers and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) paramedics find a 13-year-old Sec 1 student in the toilet.
- The boy was lying is motionless and with multiple wounds. The paramedics pronounced him dead on the spot.
- The principal broke the news of the incident to the rest of the staff once the situation was brought under control.
- The staff then spoke to the students and informed them about the incident. They tell them to contact their parents and inform them that they are safe.
The principal spoke to the students who were most affected by the incident. The parents of the students were informed via the Parents Gateway – a communication app –about the incident inside the school.
The school starts sending the students home. They make sure teachers are at the school gates to speak to parents and students.
The school informed the parents that a student has died on campus. They urge parents to monitor the well-being of their children. Parents were asked to contact form teachers in case they need help regarding their child.
On the following day, the Sec 4 student was charged in court with murder. He is currently in custody for psychiatric assessment.
How Emergency Drills In Schools In Singapore Follow ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ Method
Image courtesy: Stock
Here’s what students are taught in the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ training exercise as part of SGSecure.
- Move quickly and quietly away from danger by using the safest route.
- Do not surrender or attempt to negotiate.
- Stay out of sight and also remain quiet.
- Keep yourself locked in and stay away from the doors.
- Immediately inform the authorities about the danger, such as teachers or school leaders.
- Provide information to the Police by calling 999, SMSing 71999 or using the SGSecure App.
- Give the exact details about the attackers and the location.
Education Minister Mr Chan Chun Sing informed the Parliament on July 27, that while the ‘Run-Hide-Tell’ response was designed for a terrorism scenario, but the students and teachers of River Valley High School had the “presence of mind” to apply it to a different situation.
“Hence, I think we will need to continue to have a variety of scenarios to alert our students, security managers, and staff to the range of threats that might happen,” he said during a debate following his statement on the particular incident.
Creating barricades and how to hide
Leon Koh, a self-defence expert told CNA that lockdown drills in school usually start with an announcement from the school’s general office, whereas in reality, it can be more hectic.
In a school environment, authorities can structure their drills in a way that students go through the route assessment of the school, he added.
Also, those students who run into a classroom should take note of how the door opens and if it can be locked from inside without a key. He further noted that a door that swings outwards cannot be barricaded effectively.
Education Minister Mr Chan mentioned that not all schools in Singapore have classroom doors that can be locked from inside. He, however, reassured that they will be installed for all the schools in tandem during the school renovation programme.
Ms Chan said that where schools that don’t have these kinds of doors installed, teachers and students are taught the drill to barricade themselves with whatever they have at that point in time.
So Mr Koh suggested:
- Students should use heavy tables to barricade the door and then go and hide near the door.
- Stay away from any windows.
- Keep the phone in silent mode.
- Adopt an athlete posture, something which will allow them to move fast.
- In case the attackers manage to breach the door, students can consider preparing a heavy book, chair or a fire extinguisher to be used as a shield. These items can be used to block any dangerous weapon until help arrives.
- Students should leave the room only when there is an official announcement or after the security agencies arrive at the area.
Emergency Preparedness Exercises In S’pore Schools
Other than the drills, MOE also spoke about the emergency preparedness exercises that are sometimes conducted.
They are held with the community partners like community clubs and are observed by teachers and staff from other schools.
This exercise helps teachers and staff from other schools to get familiarised themselves with the emergency procedures. MOE gives training for teachers and staff who are appointed to the School Emergency Structure (SES), as well as those who require a refresher.
While Mr Chan highlighted that schools will have to ensure they have an intact incident management team and enough trained people to execute the drills with students.
Mr Koh mentioned that it is crucial to conduct these drills and exercises frequently “as some might take Singapore’s safety for granted.”
MOE plans to hire more teachers trained in security management
Mr Chan informed that MOE plans to have more teachers who are trained in security incident management. This is to make sure that every school has the confidence to respond and deal with any untoward incidents.
He shared, “We would like to have more teachers cross-trained in security incident management.”
Teachers need to be taught self-defence techniques as they might have to protect students during a security incident. “To be able to take something hard to hit someone requires a lot of psychological make-up and preparation,” it was added.
Do keep in mind that excessive bleeding is also the main cause of death in a terrorist attack. So, if you are caught in an attack, RUN, However, if you can’t run, then Hide. If you notice a person who is bleeding profusely, you need to help without drawing any unwanted attention.
Stay alert and be safe!
News source: CNA, SG Secure
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