SINGAPORE — Singapore authorities have contingency plans to prevent stampedes and crowd crushes at large-scale events, such as closing off high-risk areas before they get overcrowded, said Minister of State for Home Affairs Sun Xueling.
She was responding in Parliament on Monday (28 November) to queries from MPs on measures to prevent stampedes, following two major tragedies in Asia last month: the crowd surge in Seoul's Itaewon district during Halloween festivities that killed over 150 people, and the stampede at a football stadium in East Java that left more than 120 dead.
CNA reported Ms Sun as saying that the Singapore Police Force works with stakeholders to manage risks associated with large crowds.
She noted that event organisers are required under the Public Order Act to notify the police of public events that are expected to draw 5,000 or more people, or private events likely to attract 10,000 or more people. The police will engage the organisers on appropriate plans for public safety.
"These plans may include measures such as the monitoring of crowd size, the deployment of security personnel, and the regulation of crowd control at congregation areas and potential chokepoints," she said in Parliament.
"They may also include cordoning of areas with public safety risks such as narrow pathways and bridges, and signages to guide the public on diversions and closures of thoroughfares."
Police officers are also deployed on the ground at major events - such as National Day Parade, Christmas festivities at Orchard Road and New Year countdowns - to ensure law and order, as well as to respond to incidents.
Ms Sun said contingency plans are also put in place.
"These may involve catering for emergency lanes to facilitate emergency responses within crowded areas, and closing off high-risk areas pre-emptively before they become overcrowded," she said.
Tear gas to be used only in specific situations
Police officers frequently conduct patrols when there are large crowds in areas such as Little India and Chinatown, They also use closed-circuit televisions and drones to monitor the situation on the ground.
"If the police assess that there are disturbances to the mood of a crowd, the police may seek to remove the source of the agitation," Ms Sun said.
"The police may also provide adequate space for crowd dispersal or provide clear instructions on how the crowd may exit the congested area."
For indoor venues, capacity limits are regulated by the Singapore Civil Defence Force. Under the Fire Code, every storey of a building should have at least two independent exit staircases to ensure timely evacuation. Higher-risk premises, such as those with an occupant load of 1,000 people or more, are required to appoint a Fire Safety Manager.
To increase public awareness, Ms Sun said the police publicise measures before, during and after the event ends. They may also pre-empt the public on potential crowding, and alert the public to avoid areas or events which are already crowded.
In response to a question from Aljunied GRC MP Gerald Giam on whether tear gas will ever be used for crowd control, Ms Sun said the police would use riot control agents - including tear gas - only in very specific situations where there is a serious threat of harm to people or property, or the risk of significant public disorder.
"Based on recent memory. I don't think there have been recent incidents whereby we use tear gas, because we acknowledge that it can cause public chaos," she said.
She added that a lesson learnt from the double tragedies in South Korea and Indonesia is that actions must be proportionate to the incidents and must be handled very carefully.
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