Sirens Sound Across Israel as Home Front Drill Reaches Peak


israeli-drillAir raid sirens sounded across the country at 11 a.m. today as part of a week-long, country-wide war drill dubbed “Turning Point Three.” When the sirens went off, citizens made their way to designated safe rooms, while schoolchildren were led to bomb shelters and shown a 20-minute film on safety procedures. At a beachfront Tel Aviv hotel, employees were given three minutes to move to the building’s shelters but guests were not included. Residents of various cities and locales nationwide complained that they didn’t hear the siren.In one Tel Aviv neighborhood, the air raid sirens could not be heard. And in the city of Rechovot, south of Tel Aviv, a worker struggled to unlock the door of a neighborhood bomb shelter as two women watched from the sidewalk.

As the siren faded, one asked the other, “Is it over?” Shrugging their shoulders, the two then went away, and the worker gave up trying to open the shelter.

Members of the public were asked to listen for the siren and to make contact with the Home Front Command if the siren cannot be heard clearly. The IDF expressed satisfaction with the public’s reaction to the drill, Israel Radio reported.

Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Monday evening that the siren was “aimed at influencing the awareness of the Israeli public.”

Vilnai went on to say that “every citizen in the State of Israel must know that anywhere in the country, at any time, an emergency scenario can materialize, and one must know how to act.”

He added, “We expect the general public to take an active part in the drill. We have learned from the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead that those who prepare themselves and practice know how to act during a real situation.”

Vilnai said the first two days of the drill, which simulated chemical and conventional missile attacks on the whole of Israel, accompanied by a range of terrorist scenarios, had gone “very well.” There was “excellent cooperation” between the National Emergency Authority, government offices and local authorities, he said.

“There is no doubt that the drill will teach us additional lessons on Israel’s preparedness for emergencies,” he said.

“We are preparing ourselves for the most severe incident.”

The deputy defense minister said a war drill planned for 2010 would incorporate civilians “in a more intensive manner.”

Vilnai visited Magen David Adom’s new national command and control center on Monday afternoon in preparation for today’s alarm drill.

The MDA command center on Tel Aviv’s Derech Yigal Allon is protected by the best new technologies available worldwide and is one of the most technologically advanced in the country, MDA said.

The drill has been described as a “key exercise” to practice different systems and improve the country’s national preparedness and response on a systematic level, based on inter-organizational coordination and combined virtual and field exercises.

Together with the other security and rescue organizations, MDA will cope with a long list of emergency situations such as missile attacks on all parts of the country, use of unconventional weapons against the civilian population and an attack on infrastructure and essential facilities.

The command and control center will make it possible to track different teams in the field drills as well as provide a fast and effective response to the commanders managing the drills and coordinate among them. It will also test the functioning of the different systems – from the national level down to the field forces.

{AP/JPost/Yair Israel}