#TIL Food and Water Exercise (1989)
📷: Food and water exercise, Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
#TIL that in June 1989, Singapore held a week-long emergency food and water exercise, which was then the largest held so far, covering nearly a million people in 18 constituencies. It was also the first time two emergency plans were held together, making it more realistic.
The food exercise tested the distribution system for essential food supplies, from manufacturers to consumers. Rice, sugar, edible oil, milk powder, and sardines were the five “rationed” goods for this exercise. About 200 wholesalers were licensed to get supplies of these goods, which were then distributed to 1,000 licensed retail outlets in the exercise zone. Households involved received a food registration notice, and bought these items with ration coupons handed out.
To maintain an element of surprise, details for the water exercise was not released in advance. Families only knew whether they were involved when the exercise started — announcements were made over the radio and loudhailers at the foot of the blocks or at private housing estates, and through notices pasted near lifts as soon as it got under way. Residents were to collect water with their own containers or pails at the nearest water distribution point when supplies were turned off. Each household made an average of two collections of water.
Such exercises simulate a real emergency situation and were necessary to allow plans to be tested and improvements to be made ahead of a real emergency. Through these exercises, Singaporeans also learnt to better cope with emergencies where there can be disruptions to food, water and other essentials all at once. As Madam Rakish binti Ali from Bukit Merah View who participated in this exercise said, “How else are people going to learn how to cope during war?”.