JFNA Participates in Israel Government National Emergency Simulation Drill October 23, 2012
The Israel office of The Jewish Federations of North America, along with Federation representatives in Israel, are playing a key role this week in the country’s National Emergency Simulation Drill, called “Turning Point 6.” The drill is being organized by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in coordination with NEMA (National Emergency Agency) and the Home Front Command.
The five-day civil defense exercise began formally in Israel on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 10 a.m., with a governmental presentation of the exercise. As a committed member of Israel’s National Emergency Authority third-sector round table, (known by its Hebrew acronym, “Rachel”), JFNA’s Israel and Overseas department was put on alert that an “emergency” call would come sometime that day.
The drill began with an “earthquake,” measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale that was reported in the Eilat region Sunday at 11 a.m., followed by another earthquake, measuring 7.1, 30 minutes later in the Upper Galilee. At noon, a tsunami, resulting from the earthquakes, was reported on the coast of Haifa and Tel Aviv. A 4.2-strength aftershock was then reported in the Hula Valley at 7 p.m. In the simulation, the earthquakes were estimated to have caused 7,000 casualties.
JFNA’s Israel office immediately began implementing its emergency protocol, including examination of immediate needs, assessment, communications, funding, allocations and coordination with the authorities, as well as individual Federations and donors. Together with The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), staff worked to simulate their emergency responses and reactions. JFNA's partners spared no effort in coordinating responses, creating proposals for aid and communicating seamlessly.
At 11.30 a.m., soldiers, paramedics, firefighters and other first-aiders flocked to the Frankel School in Jerusalem where pupils were evacuated from the building to an open space. The Home Command and local authorities assessed various public buildings for damage control. At one school, the army practiced rescuing wounded from a collapsed school building after the simulated earthquake caused an estimated 170 fatalities.
Alarms were issued via public television and radio broadcasts, text messages and sirens at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., urging citizens to find appropriate refuge. Citizens cooperated and took part in the drill, despite their knowledge that this was a simulation.
The five-day program is due to include an inspection by the drill director in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, a visit of Eilat on Wednesday and a national emergency economic forum on Thursday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded all on Sunday that "in the event of a missile attack, we want people to run inside their homes, and in an earthquake, we want people to run outside their homes."
Speaking of the drill, Homefront Defense Minister Avi Dichter said, "Our goal is to prevent the disaster becoming a catastrophe. We must be prepared for every scenario."
ITC sent out regular updates, simulating email responses to the crisis, detailing responsive action, such as: "Teams of professionals and various service providers have been coordinated and are currently being sent to the field to help (55 in the centre of the country, 31 to the South, 30 in the North and 14 to the Shomron) respond to the needs of evacuees."
Another drill will take place after the American presidential elections on November 6, with 3,500 U.S. and Israeli troops collaborating on the month-long “Austere Challenge 12” to defend Israel more effectively against external threats. In the past week, some IDF units are reported to have been practicing speedy responses to war threats.
JFNA Senior Vice President Rebecca Caspi stated, “Our progress in coordinating rapid response to crises is extraordinary. The ability to react effectively and efficiently under pressure is critical, and together with our partners, whose productivity under pressure is highly valued and was exhibited clearly over the past days, we are very pleased with the results."
According to Saby Behar, chair of JFNA’s Israel & Overseas Committee, “We understand our role in contributing to rescue efforts with our partner organizations and we are constantly endeavoring to sharpen our response time to help bring immediate relief and assistance where we are able.”