Schools hold drills to prepare for missile strike

Drills focus on dealing with a rocket or missile strike, in particular how to make it to the safe room or escape through the windows.

March 16, 2011 05:34
4 minute read.
RESCUE PERSONNEL tend to ‘casualties’ in a drill

Missile Drill 311. (photo credit: ben hartman)

The Education Ministry and the Home Front Command held drills in schools across the country on Tuesday, as part of efforts to prepare students in the event of a missile attack, fire, or natural disaster.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i (Labor), who is responsible for the home front, attended a drill held at the Ehud Manor Elementary School in Or Yehuda, where they witnessed students prepare for a myriad of threats.

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The drills focused dealing with a rocket or missile strike, in particular how to make it to the safe room or escape through the windows if the doors or ceiling of the building have collapsed.

During the drill, the children were led into the safe room in single file lines and were counted off by name by their teachers.

Sa’ar asked the children how many of these drills they had carried out and was quickly answered by one student “at least 30, all the time.”

The pupils then made their way to the school yard where the Home Front Command, the fire department and the police had set up a missile strike simulation.

Next to a mound of rubble concealing a “casualty” and a faux missile sticking out of the ground, a Home Front Command soldier announced “a direct hit on Or Yehuda.”

At this point the paramedics sprang into action and carried away a pupil cast in the role of a missile-strike casualty, while search-and-rescue teams with dogs in tow began clearing the rubble and excavating a “victim” covered in red body paint.

It was then time for the paramedics to treat the wounded, in this case a group of pupils with Halloween-style blood and exposed bone make-up on their arms and legs.

Finally, the fire trucks put on a water cannon show before the children were taken from booth to booth describing the work of the various rescue services.

Sa’ar told the students on Tuesday, “we hope of course that there won’t be incidents where we’ll need to organize in real time what you practiced just now.

But, we can’t know there won’t be such incidents and we must be prepared, because being prepared in this way can save lives, and this is very important.”

Vilna’i addressed the crowd after Sa’ar, and told children and educators, “Israel must always want peace and prepare for war. This is the constant situation of the State of Israel. We must always be prepared for emergency situations.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post last month, Col. Efi Mishov of the Home Front Command’s Population Department, said that the command’s preparation classes taught in Israeli public schools are based on the idea that “a student who is taught from a young age how to be ready for an emergency situation will be an adult who is prepared for an emergency situation.”

Mishov said the programs cover issues from missile strikes to fires to earthquakes and that teachers and soldiers teaching the course have received pedagogical instruction from the Education Ministry.

Mishov said that the courses aren’t intended “to take the place of the instruction given by parents,” but added that when children are prepared well, it can have a positive impact on their parents’ level of preparedness.

He also said that the courses “are not meant to scare the children at all,” adding that children are learning very basic things of a non-frightening nature.

Not all parents agree. Ronit (not her real name) from Mevaseret Zion spoke to The Jerusalem Post earlier this month and described the instructions as having a traumatic effect on her 11-year-old daughter, who she said has had nightmares and trouble sleeping as a result of the courses.

“They presented all these different things that makes it seem like they don’t have the training to know what’s suitable for kids to learn about and what’s not. My daughter said they went into very detailed descriptions about what would happen to you if there was chemical warfare, for instance.”

Ronit said the instructors also “spoke about earthquakes, and they said stuff like, “you don’t know when this would happen, It could happen at any moment, even now and children would be buried under the school.”

“She said she’s afraid to close her eyes now, and doesn’t feel safe at home,” Ronit added.

In addition to readiness in the face of an attack, earthquake preparedness has become a hot-button issue in recent years as well. In April 2010, the government approved a comprehensive plan to prepare for a potential earthquake, as well as a budget of NIS 140 million a year to reinforce public buildings against earthquakes.

Israel lies on the Syria-African rift, an area of seismic activity, and experts estimate that in the case of an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale, 16,000 Israelis would die and hundreds of thousands would be displaced.

Following the Carmel fire in December, the government in January voted to approve NIS 800 million in additional funding for emergency preparedness.

The plan includes NIS 350 million to improve the country’s fire services, NIS 350m. devoted to earthquake preparedness and another NIS 100m. as an emergency supplement where needed.

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