Planning, drills and training help SMRT staff in flood response

When Hurricane Ida hit New York in early September 2021, many parts of the city’s underground metro system were submerged in floodwater, severely hampering train services.

While Singapore is unlikely to experience cyclones and typhoons – as hurricanes are known in Asia – some parts of the island are prone to flooding, particularly with unprecedented climate change. This could impact the country’s MRT network upon which many depend on for their daily commute. While we cannot control nature, we can be better prepared for it.

So how does SMRT do this? By working closely with the relevant authorities to plan in advance our flood response strategy and through regular drills to keep staff trained and operationally ready.

On 17 September, SMRT Trains conducted a ground deployment exercise on the Circle Line at Paya Lebar station to reinforce the training and operational readiness of its staff in the prevention of potential station flooding. It involved different teams across SMRT Trains, including the Operations Control Centre (OCC), Station Operations and Maintenance Operations Centre.

The two-hour exercise (see video below) showed (1) close monitoring of the threat of flooding via national water agency PUB’s high water level alert system; (2) activation of graduated flood response plan; and (3) the safe and timely deployment of flood barriers at the station’s entrances.

To simulate real-life conditions in the exercise scenario, there were heavy thundery showers with strong gusty winds in the north-eastern part of Singapore. When waters in the Geylang River rose above 75 per cent of the river’s capacity, OCC placed on alert the Flood Response Team, which comprises 30 SMRT staff from depots and other stations. Paya Lebar station staff also continually monitored the station’s surroundings.

SMRT staff installing stackable flood barriers.
SMRT staff install stackable flood barriers during the exercise at Paya Lebar station on 17 September 2021. Photo: SMRT

When the water level in Geylang River rose above 90 per cent, the Flood Response Team was activated to report to Paya Lebar station. Upon arrival, they moved stackable flood barriers into position at designated entrances of the station.

When the exercise scenario had waters rising above ground-level drains and submerging footpaths around the station, the stackable flood barriers were deployed within 30 minutes by the Flood Response Team. In an actual flood incident, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) would be informed concurrently at this point. Commuters would also be alerted to the situation via station announcements and on SMRT’s social media platforms.

Members of the Flood Response Team with other SMRT staff.
Thumbs up at the conclusion of a successful exercise at Paya Lebar Station on 17 September 2021. Photo: SMRT

But SMRT’s efforts in flood prevention does not stop there. Refresher training for SMRT staff in responding to a flooding situation, among other exercises, is conducted twice a year. SMRT will also continue to work with relevant agencies to review flood protection measures to strengthen their effectiveness amid climate changes.

Ultimately, providing safe, reliable and comfortable journeys for commuters remains a top priority for SMRT. And a key to achieving this is to always stay prepared and plan ahead.

Click here for Minister for Transport S Iswaran’s written reply to Parliamentary Question on Flood Management and Adaptation Measures for Public Transport Systems.

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