Exercise Northstar V

On 8 January 2006, a large scale emergency preparedness exercise was conducted. Codenamed Exercise Northstar V, it involved 22 agencies and 2,000 emergency personnel. An additional 3,400 commuters also participated in the exercise. The exercise involved a simulated terrorist bomb attack on four MRT stations and one bus interchange. There were 500 mock casualties suffering from "injuries" caused by the "explosions" as well as chemical agents. The exercise is the largest civil emergency exercise ever staged in the country.[1]


Exercise Northstar V is part of the counter-terrorism effort in Singapore, aiming to test the readiness, effectiveness and coordination of the relevant agencies in responding to civil emergency, in particular a large scale multi-location terrorist attack. The exercise also aimed to raise the psychological preparedness of the public in the event of a terrorist attack.

The exercise is prompted by the recent terrorist attacks on public transport in other countries, namely the 7 July 2005 London bombings and the Madrid train bombings on 11 March 2004, which raise security concerns in public infrastructure. Singapore was the target of the foiled plan by Jemaah Islamiyah to bomb embassies and other installations.

The scenario of the exercise is similar to the London bombings with near-simultaneous bomb blasts in the trains and a bus. Earlier, officers from the Singapore Police Force were sent to London to study the British responses to the bombings.

The public were pre-warned that the exercise would be held during a weekend in January 2006 and the participating agencies were given as many as six months to prepare. However, the exact date, time and locations of the exercise were not disclosed until 15 minutes before the drill commenced.

However, there were some public complaints of authorities' overzealous enforcement of rules. One recent example involved airport security officers detaining a family of four for using the word "bomb" in Singapore Changi Airport. The family later published an account of how they were detained wrongly online and it sparked a public controversy. See [1].

Conduct of the exercise

The exercise started at 6:25 am local time on 8 January 2006, a Sunday, and lasted about three hours. To avoid public panic, announcements were made at the affected train stations as well as on television and radio, just before the exercise began.

Mock explosive devices were detonated near-simultaneously in subway trains and station platforms at four MRT stations (Dhoby Ghaut, Toa Payoh, Raffles Place and Marina Bay) and in a double decker bus at Toa Payoh Bus Interchange. A chemical agent attack was then simulated at Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station at 6:45 am. An undetonated mock bomb was also placed at the Raffles Place MRT Station. About 3,400 commuters who were on board the subway trains were evacuated during the drill. Services at 13 MRT stations were temporarily disrupted and roads within the vicinity were also closed to traffic. Shuttle buses were used to ferry commuters affected by the exercise.

Thunderflashes, smoke generators, and fire simulators were used to simulate the explosion and 500 simulated casualties were deployed to test emergency rescuers at the scene. These mock casualties carried tags to provide paramedics information on the extent of their injuries and these includes injuries related to bomb blasts, such as open wounds and burns. There were also some with injuries related to chemical agents. Dummy mannequins were also used to simulate casualties. 7 hospitals and 2 polyclinics were also involved in the drill as they received the mock casualties. In two hospitals, Singapore General Hospital and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, healthcare workers donned decontamination suits as they prepared to treat victims of chemical agents suspected to be sarin gas.[2]

Officers from the London Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police, including Chief Constable Ian Johnston, were present to observe the exercise and to provide feedback to the authorities.[3]

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