ZAKA Volunteers From Israel And USA Participate In Multi-National US Army Drill In Indiana


zaka-indiana-drillShortly after the Oklahama tornado created chaos and tragedy, ZAKA volunteers from Israel and the States participated this week in a five-day, multi-venue and multi-national drill in Indiana designed to simulate an EF 5 Tornado event.

The drill, dubbed United Front II and planned months before Oklahoma, took place on the campus of Indiana University and involved the demolition of three buildings. Participants in the multi-venue search and rescue operation included ZAKA International Rescue Unit, the Israeli Defense Forces Home Front Command, the Indiana National Guard, the United States Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, the Bloomington Fire Department, the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, Indiana Task Force 1, the Indiana Office of Emergency Management, the Indiana University Emergency Medical Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The exercise was a follow up to a similar drill held last year by ZAKA, the IDF Homefront Command and the Indiana National Guard in Jerusalem and the sharing of expertise, experience and best practices helps to hone the skills and readiness of all the emergency services.

The program included training and exercises incorporating various types of equipment used for search, rescue and extrication operations; learning about the incident command structure, organizational responsibilities and confined space rescue. The drill also included a hands-on demonstration of inter-agency operability as well as working within the incident command structure. Two buildings on the Indiana University campus , as well as a nearby post office, were destroyed in the simulation. Eighty mannequins, posing as tornado victims, were recovered from the scene. .

While ZAKA’s role in the drill was to provide mortuary services to all bodies recovered on the scene, ZAKA was also tasked with performing medical triage midway through the exercise.

According to Major William Poag of the Indiana National Guard, the ZAKA volunteers were “perfect. They take things a step further, doing search and extraction as well as recovering fatalities and it was a pleasure to work with them.”

Major Chip Hahn of the Indiana National Guard also expressed his praise for ZAKA operations, noting that “the training that ZAKA members have in the handling of remains and the dignity that they show to people of all faiths is truly impressive.”

Bloomington Fire Department Chief Roger Kerr also praised ZAKA’s contribution: “ZAKA did a great job in helping us through this drill. We are glad to have that relationship where we can reach out to them.”

According to Diana Mack of the Office of Emergency Management at Indiana University, “ZAKA’s expertise in mass fatality situations made them invaluable to the exercise. They worked tirelessly at the fraternity house disaster site, which was a two-story wood frame structure that posed interesting situations for the Israeli teams who are used to different styles of building construction. As Indiana University plans exercises in the future, we hope to work with them again.”

ZAKA USA CEO Zvi Gluck: “We educated the other participants in the various different customs and laws pertaining to honoring the deceased properly and were also able to demonstrate our professionalism in dealing with not just Jewish decedents but the overall care of all involved. Humanity knows no difference in race and religion.”

The ZAKA team consisted of seven members, with Mati Goldstein, head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, Dov Maisel, chief of operations for the ZAKA International Rescue Unit , Sammy Grossman and Berel Jacobowitz making up the Israeli ZAKA contingent. The New York ZAKA team included Zvi Gluck, Yitzy Tepper and Mordechai Clapman.

Mati Goldstein, ZAKA International Rescue Unit commander: “I welcome this opportunity given to ZAKA. To be part of an exercise of this magnitude is a credit to the organization, and recognition of our operational capability and professionalism. Without doubt, it has raised ZAKA’s operational level immeasurably”.

{ Israel News Bureau}