Singapore Civil Defence Force
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Total Defence

What is Total Defence?

Total Defence

The way war is conducted today, our limited resources, the nature of our society and the size of our country, require that our country have a Total Defence capability which involves not only the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) but also the civilian population.

Through Total Defence, every sector of society is mobilised and has a part to play to ensure Singapore's security.

In Total Defence, our people are organised to defend the country against all forms of attack, both military and non-military. Total Defence comprises the 5 pillars viz. Psychological Defence, Social Defence, Economic Defence, Civil Defence and Military Defence.

Psychological Defence is each person's commitment to and confidence in the nation's future.

Social Defence is about people living and working together in harmony and spending time on the interests of the nation and community.

Economic Defence is the government, business and industry organising themselves to support the economy at all times. Individuals contribute by working hard and meeting the challenges of development. Those who continually improve themselves to stay relevant play an even bigger role.

Civil Defence provides for the safety and basic needs of the whole community so that life may go on as normally as possible during emergencies.

Military Defence is having a strong Singapore Armed Forces to deter aggression and protect the country. It also involves citizens doing their part to support the military.

In short Total Defence is about everyone playing a part in the defence of Singapore.

For more details, please visit the Total Defence website.

What Is Civil Defence?

Civil Defence provides for the safety and basic needs of the whole community so that life may go on as normally as possible during emergencies. It involves training the civilian population in rescue work, evacuation, first aid and damage control.

Civil Defence aims to produce a civilian population familiar with procedures for survival and protection, and with arrangements for relief services and emergency supply of critical items like blood, water and food. The knowledge and assurance that loved ones are cared for will fortify the morale of our citizen-soldiers in military training or fighting at the frontline.

Civil Defence complements and supports the other defence components of the nation's Total Defence.

SCDF's Role in Total Defence

Firing Water

SCDF is the organisation that spearheads civil defence plans and programmes in Singapore. It believes in being prepared so that minimum disruption to community life, environment and infrastructure is caused in the event of a disaster.

To that end, it garners all efforts to promote and institutionalise emergency preparedness among the civilian population. This includes the provision of resources - manpower and infrastructure - to educate the civilian population in civil defence knowledge; and to organise and provide training for them in basic civil defence skills. This way, everyone in Singapore should be able to look after himself / herself during an emergency.

Should an emergency occur and lives or property are threatened, the SCDF's regulars, (reinforced by its national servicemen and volunteers if the situation requires) can be counted on to respond round the clock to mitigate the situation.

What Is Total Defence Day?

Each year Total Defence (TD) Day is commemorated on the 15th February. It marks Singapore's fall to the Japanese in 1942. The commemoration of Total Defence Day seeks to remind people of the sufferings endured by our fore fathers during the Japanese Occupation. It is also an occasion to refamiliarise our people with the modern defence strategy of "Total Defence" which Singapore has adopted to ensure our continued survival and security.

Most of our Total Defence Day activities involve participation of schools largely. Each year, the "Important Message" signal of the Public Warning System is sounded to commemorate the day. It is also a part of SCDF's continual effort to educate the public on the different meanings of the system.

Total Defence Day Activity Highlights

Below is the details of SCDF's involvements in Total Defence Day in recent years.


Carnival at former Mandai Training Village (MTV)

Total Defence Day Programme at MTV was organised primarily for students. The main objective was to reinforce students' awareness of the need and importance of civil defence within the context of Total Defence.. The activities included an exhibition on emergency preparedness, static displays and demonstrations on ground and height rescues and LPG fire. In addition, the students underwent a mock emergency exercise on food and water rationing. At the end of the visit, an "Expressions Alley" gave the students an opportunity to pen their thoughts on what they learnt for the day. The 2-day visit was attended by more than 6000 students from 74 primary and secondary schools.

 2000Shelter Open House Cum CD Exhibition

The concept of the programme for TD Day 2000 focused on public education on shelter occupation and procedures and the public's role in ensuring their own and their community's safety in an emergency. The event was held at 12 shelter locations including selected MRT stations, community centres, HDB basements and schools. The event was held over two days from 15-16 February 2000. Public awareness on the "Dos" and "Don'ts" when moving to and staying in a shelter were created through exhibitions and organised tours held at all the venues. The following were the shelters that were involved in the exhibition.

  • 3 MRT stations (Tiong Bahru , Lavender, Somerset),
  • 5 Schools (Tanglin Sec, Henderson Sec, Woodlands Ring Sec, Kranji Sec and Greenridge Sec),
  • 2 CC (Tampines West CC and Nanyang CC) and
  • 2 HDB shelters (Blk 626 Pasir Ris Dr 3 and Blk 221 Hougang St 21) were involved.
Civil Defence Heritage Gallery Visit Programme for Schools

As part of SCDF commemorative efforts for Total Defence Day, schools were organised to visit the Heritage Gallery. About 3,500 students visited the newly open Heritage Gallery from 5th to 22nd Feb 2002. The students were treated to a one hour tour of the gallery followed by a short quiz. The students were also given a souvenir in the shape of a fire hydrant water bottle.

The Civil Defence Heritage Gallery traces fire fighting and civil defence developments in Singapore from the late 1800s till modern day, and is intended as a twin vehicle for showcasing the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) proud and long history, as well as heightening public awareness of civil defence.

2003Total Defence Commemoration and Roadshows

The theme of 2003's Total Defence Campaign, "United We Stand" aimed to educate all Singaporeans that they have an active role to play in ensuring that Singapore achieves homeland security, economic success and social harmony.

These three areas form the key messages for this year's Total Defence Campaign:

  • Our Security: Our readiness strengthens our security.
    Our security agencies are working together to protect us against potential threats. We can help them by being alert and vigilant.

  • Our Success: Our adaptability ensures our success.
    We must keep on acquiring new skills and knowledge. By being responsive to business trends, we can help our economy grow stronger.

  • Our Unity: Our unity strengthens our nation.
    Our racial and cultural diversity makes us a unique society. When we come together as one united people, we will continue to succeed.

On 14 Feb 2003 at 1205 hours, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) sounded the Important Message Signal through the island-wide Public Warning System (PWS) sirens. Simultaneously at 1205 hours, 10 local radio stations also sounded the important message signal and explained to the listeners on the appropriate measures to be taken for the three different types of PWS signals. After the sounding, schools read out a Civil Defence message in which students were reminded of the significance of the PWS signals and appropriate measures to be taken upon hearing them. The schools were also issued with CD ROMs containing audio recording of the PWS and its explanation.

The SCDF also organised the 'North East Line (NEL) Civil Defence Shelter Open House' over two days at four NEL MRT stations (ie. Hougang, Chinatown, Farrer Park and Serangoon) on 15 and 16 Feb 03. The launch was officiated by Mr Wong Kang Seng, Minister for Home Affairs, on 15 Feb 03 at 9 am at the Hougang NEL MRT station. The open house, for both days, was from 10 am to 7 pm. Members of the public came and learnt about the steps to take in an emergency, with special emphasis on Civil Defence Public Shelters. In addition, they could participate in a Civil Defence contest by answering three simple multiple-choice questions and be amongst the 23 lucky winners to win attractive cash prizes of up to $1000.

 2004Mass Communication and Community Outreach Programme 

The theme for TD 2004 campaign - "Living with Terrorism" - highlighted the fragile security climate we are in and the need to be prepared. To support TD, SCDF organised a range of activities to build public confidence and cohesiveness. This included the sounding of the Public Warning System signals in conjunction with the introduction of IPP concept to schools; display of CD vehicles and equipment at the TD exhibition; an Exercise Community Spirit at Hougang; and the localized sounding of the "All Clear" signal on 15 February during the memorial service ceremony at the Beach Road War Memorial Park. It also contributed to the production of a docu-drama and infomercials on Total Defence which were televised nationwide in February 2004.

 2005Total Defence Commemoration and Exhibitions 

Total Defence 2005 was themed "Total Defence: There's a part for everyone". SCDF organised a range of activities to get its own public education messages across to the population. The sounding of the "Important Message" signal was sounded on 15 Feb 2005 at 1205 hours. There was also a commemoration of WWII civilian victims at the Beach Road War Memorial Park.

A six-day TD photo exhibition was held at the Suntec City Entertainment Atrium (in front of Carrefour) from 15 to 20 Feb 2005. The SCDF utilised the exhibition to display photographs of its operational capabilities in dealing with conventional and unconventional threats. It also actively educated and engaged the public in an interactive manner through information and electronic gaming booths on basic CD skills such as first aid and CPR as well as emergency procedures to deal with any terrorism threat scenarios.

The Heritage Gallery also displayed the Hazmat Tender appliance to showcase SCDF’s enlarged role in the area of fire-fighting and specifically SCDF’s operational capability in the area of mitigation of hazmat incidents. Subsequently, other appliances like the Light Pumper, the Foam Tender and the Pump Escape were put on display on a rotational basis every quarterly. With the varied appliances on display, the public were able to comprehend better SCDF’s diverse operational capability.

 2006Mass Communications Programme and Nation-Wide Launch Event 

To commemorate Total Defence Campaign 2006, a nation-wide launch event called “TD Explorally” was organised, modelled after the popular reality television show, the “Amazing Race”. The TD Explorally aims to enhance the “experiential” component of TD, by bringing participants to sites and landmarks in Singapore that tell of Singapore’s success story, our unique way of life and our approach to safeguarding our sovereignty. The TD Explorally covered five sites, each to represent one aspect of TD. For the Civil Defence pillar of TD, SCDF supported TD Explorally by offering the Civil Defence Academy as the CD site. Upon arrival at CDA, participants were faced with scenario-based challenges where teams were tasked to complete a series of hands-on activities eg CPR, IPP, basic first-aid etc.

SCDF also participated in the TD Story Exhibition by displaying photos on its operational capabilities, its efforts in the fight against terrorism and its community outreach programmes, both past and present. As part of the effort to continuously engage the community and schools in Total Defence, NEXUS in collaboration with SCDF developed a TD start-up resource kit and distributed to TD partners, community clubs and schools. The resource kit contained a TD introductory video and information pamphlets on Total Defence.

As a tradition, the SCDF activated the the island-wide PWS “Important Message” signal, followed by the reading of the Civil Defence Message to school students on 15 Feb 2006 at 1205hours. In addition, the PWS “All Clear” signal was sounded on a localised basis as part of the memorial service for the civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation at Beach Road War Memorial Park on 15 Feb 06 at 0930 hours.

 2007Localised PWS Sounding and TD Carnival

As part of SCDF commemorative efforts for Total Defence Day, the SCDF sounded the Important Message Signal through the island-wide Public Warning System (PWS) sirens on 15 Feb 2007 at 1205 hours. Simultaneously at 1205 hours, 10 local radio stations also sounded the important message signal and explained to the listeners on the appropriate measures to be taken for the three different types of PWS signals. After the sounding, schools read out a Civil Defence message in which students were reminded of the significance of the PWS signals and appropriate measures to be taken upon hearing them.

As a tradition, the PWS "All Clear" signal was also sounded on a localised basis as part of the memorial service for the civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation at Beach Road War Memorial Park on 15 Feb 07 at 0930 hours.

The SCDF also participated in the Total Defence Day Carnival organised by MINDEF and supported the event by showcasing its operational capabilities by displaying its latest range of fire-fighting and rescue appliances and incorporating  Public education component within the exhibits.

 2008SCDF at the Singapore Discovery Centre 

One of the exhibition sites for the 2008 Total Defence Day was the Singapore Discovery Centre. The event was held on 12th to 19th February. Throughout the exhibition period, thousands of people visited the site; most of them were students from the primary and secondary schools across the island.

'It’s Personal. Play Your Part' was the mantra for 2008 Total Defence Day. The participants were treated to many interesting exhibits and displays encompassing all five aspects of Total Defence – military, civil, economic, social and psychological. The exhibits were informative and many of them interactive, which made the visit more fun and exciting. Two of the most popular components of the exhibition were the games and vehicles displays.

At the event, the Guest of Honour, Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Defence addressed to the visitors the need for civilians to pick up skills that can play a very important role in times of emergency.

"In a crisis, resources will be strained and we will need all hands on deck," he said, giving examples of two incidents where lives were saved by civilians performing CPR. "In both cases, their quick action provided a stranger, friend, or family member, a fighting chance of survival. So, while all is well, it is important to take part in emergency exercises to learn…what to do in an emergency before it happens."

 2009SCDF-SDC Total Defence Exhibition and Launch of the Primary School Teachers' Resource Kit 

For TD 2009, the campaign theme, "What will you defend?" sought to encourage Singaporeans to reflect on what they will hold dear and defend above all else. Aligning with this theme, SCDF's outreach programme focused on raising the public's level of emergency preparedness through seeking proactive participation from the public themselves. In support of TD 2009, SCDF was engaged in the following activities:

  • Sounding of the "Important Message" Public Warning System (PWS) Signal islandwide in Singapore.
  • Sounding of PWS "All-Clear" signal at Beach Road War Memorial Park.
  • SCDF-Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) Total Defence Exhibition.
  • Launching of Primary School Teachers’ Resource Kit to all primary schools in Singapore.

The SCDF-SDC Total Defence Exhibition was held for a total of 8 days, stretching from 10 to 13 Feb 2009 and 17 to 20 Feb 2009 and comprised of a Public Education Display, Vehicular displays and games area situated at the concourse area of the SDC.

The exhibition aimed to inculcate the importance of emergency preparedness knowledge and skills to the primary and secondary school students, and had attracted 12,000 visitors from organised schools & uniformed groups visit as well as members of public.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Primary School Teachers' Resource Kit was also launched to all primary schools at the event. In a bid to imbibe the younger generation with Civil Defence knowledge, this resource kit is designed to facilitate classroom teaching in all primary schools. Through these lessons, the resource kit enhances the engagement of schools in emergency preparedness. The kit contains interactive resource materials which enable the primary school teachers to conduct engaging yet entertaining lessons on Civil Defence.


First deployment of the enhanced Mobile Tremorlator at SDC

SCDF worked closely with NEXUS and the Singapore Discovery Centre in driving the Total Defence campaign in 2010 (TD 2010) which was based on the theme "I Will".

SCDF ran several activities in support of the Total Defence Campaign, including the sounding of the PWS "Important Message" signal island-wide on Mon 15 Feb 2010 in commemoration of Total Defence Day. In memory of the civilian victims during the Japanese Occupation, SCDF also activated the PWS "All-Clear" localised signal at the Memorial Service held at the War Memorial Park.

From 1 to 12 Feb 2010, SCDF participated in the Total Defence Day Exhibition at the Singapore Discovery Centre to showcase its operational capabilities and deliver core public education messages to schools and the community. Highlights of the exhibition include the first-ever Emergency Preparedness Gamecard, the inaugural deployment of the enhanced Mobile Tremorlator and the launch of the SCDF-SDC Cube Jigsaw game. The exhibition concluded with a successful turnout of around 10,000 visitors over the two weeks.


SCDF - SDC Total Defence Day Exhibition

The theme for Total Defence Day 2011 was "Home - Keeping It Together"

An exhibition on emergency preparedness was jointly organised by SCDF and the Singapore Discovery Centre. The exhibition was held from 8th February to 18th February, excluding Saturday and Sunday.

Interactive exhibits put up by the organisers allowed students to immerse themselve in a learning experience where knowledge is gained through their senses.


SCDF set up emergency preparedness skills impartation booths in 4 schools   

This year,for the first time the NEXUS (MINDEF) Total Defence Day Exhibition was held at four locations - ITE College West, Tampines Junior College, Raffles Institution and Singapore Polytechnic .

Themed "Its My Turn", Total Defence Day 2012 aims to help youths internalise the importance of NS and Total Defence.SCDF supported the exhibitions through operating an assortment of interactive booths where students were able to immerse in experential learning. Exhibits included hands on experience with IPP procedure, operating the SCDF very own watermist gun, and participation in scenario drills as well as evacuation excercise.

Concurrently, an 11-day exhibition was held from 8th Feb - 22nd Feb at the Singapore Discovery Centre. Students were treated to firsthand insight into decontamination techniques and many other emergency preparedness skills impartation booths.

Special segment for this year's exhibition included sharing by CD Lionhearters on their Overseas Humanitarian Rebuilding Projects and SCDF NSF as well as Senior officer on their experience in SCDF.

Last updated on 30th Mar 2012
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