Everyone knows there are organisations such as the Singapore Armed Forces, or the Singapore Police Force to deal with both external and internal threats to Singapore’s security.
But what if the threat is less direct, or more out of sight?
Luckily, Singapore already has organisations that quietly deal with such invisible threats behind the scenes.
In fact, they often neutralise such threats or alert the relevant authorities before you even encounter them.
Invisible threats exist
The Chemicals, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE) Centre of Expertise (CoE) is part of the HTX (Home Team Science & Technology Agency).
If you think their name is way too long, just remember that the list of threats they have to deal with is even longer.
The CoE handles a variety of different issues on a daily basis: from trying to prevent illegal narcotics from being smuggled into Singapore, to ensuring that toxic chemicals do not find their way into our shores (or air).
“Huh? What toxic chemicals? But I don’t see or hear anything about this. Are you sure these are actual threats?”
Oh yes. Just because you can’t easily see a threat, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
In fact, the CBRNE team prides themselves on ensuring that threats are eliminated before it reaches the public eye.
Basically, if said threats didn’t have to hit the news, it’s a job well done.
CBRNE threats are more common than you think
If you think that such threats are merely a far-fetched idea, you are wrong.
In 1995, the Tokyo subway sarin attack became the deadliest terrorist incident in modern Japanese history, after members of a cult released sarin gas into three lines of the Tokyo Metro during rush hour, killing 12 people.
At least 5,800 people were injured by the nerve agent, which is a form of chemical weapon originally developed by Nazi Germany for using during the Second World War.
Later, in 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Senators in the U.S., killing five people and infecting 17 others.
Anthrax is another form of biological warfare which have been used by various powers during the last 100 years.
Both cases were classified as a form of chemical or biological warfare, and most countries have invested significantly in preventing such attacks from happening ever again.
In today’s rapidly developing world, threats come in all shapes and sizes.
The CBRNE team’s job is to ensure that Singapore is not only safe from direct attacks, but also from the more sinister attacks that may otherwise slip under the radar.
CBRNE’s bio-surveillance programme
During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the CBRNE team’s role is even more important, given that it played a significant role in testing travellers for Covid-19 at our borders and checkpoints.
CBRNE scientists had developed a rapid screening and detection kit for Covid-19, which facilitated the testing of travelers at borders and checkpoints, and helped to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The team also stepped up its lab testing capabilities, in order to assist with screening the large volume of samples collected, as part of the government’s effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 from imported cases.
In addition, by testing wastewater samples collected at foreign worker dormitories, the CBRNE team was able to assess the Covid-19 situation in the area, to enable early detection, which will mitigate further transmission.
Early warning system via e-Nose technology
The CBRNE team is also constantly innovating in order to better detect potential threats.
For example, the team is working with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) on an early warning system via the e-Nose technology, which can detect emissions of unpleasant or dangerous gases.
This would be used to detect and identify odours associated with harmful substances, especially toxic industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents, in order to triangulate the suspected origin of release.
Yes, this means that we may soon be able to, quite literally, sniff out threats that are coming our way.
This is just one example of the many exciting technologies that the CBRNE team is currently working on.
With unknown threats on the horizon, CBRNE scientists work closely with their ICA counterparts, in order to constantly keep abreast of advances in technology and remain vigilant.
Remember, prevention is often better than cure, and it’s always better to have eliminated the threat before it becomes a real problem.
Top image via HTX.
This sponsored article made the writer realise that he’s sleeping soundly at night because other people are working around the clock to keep him safe.