There were ambulances, smoke, sirens, bandages, helicopters, red-stained and
torn clothing, doctors, policemen, soldiers and firemen at Mount Herzl – but
none of the shocked and terrorized faces of the real thing.
comprehensive exercise simulating an attack on the Jerusalem Light Rail proved a
success on Wednesday morning, providing training for novice medical staffers and
teaching the veterans new lessons on how to improve their performance in an
authentic mass catastrophe.
The drill was the initiative of the Hebrew
University Medical School as a final test for students completing a 10- day
trauma course, a week before they complete their six years of formal studies. It
was arranged by Prof. Avi Rivkind – chief of general surgery at Hadassah
University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, head of its world-acclaimed trauma unit,
which he established in 1992, and known as “Dr. Lifesaver” to many
Last year, the medical school drill took place at Teddy
Stadium, but with extensive roadwork going on there to extend the Begin Highway,
it was shifted to the light rail’s Mount Herzl station. This marked the
new transportation line’s first involvement in such an exercise since it opened
to paying passengers almost a year ago.
Two women from a school for
professional makeup came in – as every year – to lend some authenticity,
applying red and purple creams to faces and limbs, creating encrusted “wounds,”
spraying red stains on torn clothing and spreading flour on faces to look like
they had been hit by dust from explosions.
“I have been doing this every
year for two decades,” said makeup artist Nava Rogel. “I’m used to
About half of the 108 members of this year’s graduating class are
women, and many of them were in the trauma course.
acting as doctors, victims, supervisors, photographers and press spokesmen were
on hand. Some “wounded” climbed behind fences to lie among bushes,
looking as if the blast had thrown them there and waiting until their colleagues
found and “treated” them. A disheveled baby doll missing an arm lay outside the
Metal boxes with green dust that simulated smoke bombs, and burnt
tires set in barrels, were set down on Kiryat Hayovel Street at the southern end
of Herzl Boulevard, as air-conditioned train cars emptied of regular passengers
and filled up with soldiers and medical-student actors instead. Others lay down
in the street and tried to look motionless – a difficult task under the hot
Traffic was diverted from the key artery to the Kiryat
Hayovel neighborhood, causing some annoyance but no alarm to crisis-inured
“Moan! Make it sound real!” yelled Rivkind in his green
surgical suit, using his megaphone as it began to get noisy.
scenario was that two terrorists had entered the tram, one bearing a suicide
bomb that killed him, and the other dying from shrapnel wounds. Medical
students, Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah ambulance teams evacuated the
train, hauling “wounded” out with their bare hands.
“You’re not a
porter,” yelled Rivkind when a medical student took a victim too far without
first examining and intubating him. “You’re a doctor! He’s dying. Treat him on
Supervisors with notebooks hurriedly filled in checklists and
marked down what the teams were doing. Rivkind’s deputy, Dr. Bala Miklosh, also
supervised and watched.
A medical student who had pushed a cushion under
her red-splashed blouse to become a pregnant terror victim received special
attention from the teams, which rushed to evacuate her by MDA ambulance as a
helicopter circled above.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch
appeared and consulted with Jerusalem Police chief Niso Shaham. Deputy Health
Minister Ya’acov Litzman arrived with an entourage of aides and tried to take
the scene in.
Onlookers from the tangential neighborhood of Bayit Vagan
rushed to photograph the scene after they noticed the action. Journalists and
passers-by mulled about, even stepping over the “wounded.”
attack and other mass catastrophe starts this way – as chaos. It is an axiom,”
said the Hadassah surgeon after debriefing his students for over three hours at
the Ein Kerem hospital. “But you overcome it.”
Rivkind, who has
probably seen thousands of emergencies, from road accidents to terror attacks,
in his long career, told The Jerusalem Post that having ministers and top police
officials was unusual.
“It was the first light rail drill, and the latest
State Comptroller’s Report had criticism of MDA supervision. So everybody
came,” he said.
He noted that he had shouted at medical students who had
rushed into the train without waiting for bomb experts to give the
all-clear. And he told the students that ambulance staffers should be
moving victims, not the doctors who should be examining and treating
“The evacuation was fine. But nobody found a ‘victim’ that I
sent to lie down among the bushes behind a stone wall. He had to shout, ‘I’m
here‚’ before other medical students found him. No one should have gone into the
train without the bomb experts giving the OK. This was the major lesson from the
September 11 catastrophe in New York,” he said.
Still, he conceded, “it’s
easy for me to criticize. I have seen so many. I know what to do. At the
debriefing, they watched a video made on the scene to learn how to do it better.
Everybody did his very best to work together.”
He also acknowledged that
the police should have kept the civilian onlookers to one side and told the
journalists where to go.
After the makeshift catastrophe ended, he
checked and found that the train was full of trash and had some red stains on
the floor and seats. He sent a team of medical students to clean it up, and not
long after, the tram made its regular route through the city, with no passengers
noting any difference.