I was sending a friend back to her Pearl Centre office after lunch on a rainy Wednesday when I remembered 'The Former Combined Operations Room (fCOR) Exhibition' at 195 Pearl's Hill Terrace.
At first I went to the wrong address - went to a student hostel across Pearl Centre and was kindly directed to the right location by a foreign worker.
A SPF pioneer officer Jean, who had previously worked at the fCOR, gave me a tour of this commemorative exhibition.
The British-built Combined Operations Room first opened in 1956 and ceased operations in 1988. In 2001, the space was taken over by Singapore Land Authority as a storage facility.
For the first time in its history, a recreation of the secret police bunker will be opened to the public for three months beginning from 20 October 2015.
Inside the building are narrow corridors and thick walls which were made to withstand a direct hit from a 500-pound bomb and to prevent mob incursions.
The building was once the nerve centre for the Singapore Police in which the 1956 Chinese middle school riots, 1965 Konfrontasi and the 1969 racial riots were managed.
All of Singapore’s 999 emergency calls were answered in the Radio Control Room later on.
My guide Jean worked in the Radio Control Room for many years. It was bustling with activity daily and chaotic at times. She showed me how calls coming in via a manual telephone switchboard was answered. The manual system was replaced with a computerised one in the early 1990s.
There were lots of prank calls, usually from children. Their mothers would be informed if the children continued to make such calls. LOL
Jean recalled working shifts round the clock and when Hotel New World collapse in 1986, many officers did not go home. She and her female colleagues would take turns to cook meals for these officers.
In another room, I was told officers used teleprinter machines that looked like typewriters to send messages. The machines were also used to fax messages.
Wow..... I tried to figure out how the officers managed to get things done with no internet, no e-mails and no mobile phones.
This is the recreated Chief Police Staff Officer’s room which has a large glass window overlooking the tote board and deployment maps. Staff would update incidents across the island on the tote board and map manually in real time.
Representatives from the various statutory boards and government agencies would sit in during meetings.
The tour was over in 45 minutes as I was the only visitor. Jean helped me to take pictures as I posed.
Members of the public can sign up for tours of the exhibition by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling +65 9893 5140 to book the tour which will run till 31 January 2016.
Tours will be conducted from Tuesday to Sunday, excluding public holidays, at 10am, 10.45am, 11.30am, 2pm, 2.45pm and 3.30pm.