The IDF Home Front Command kicked off its first national earthquake drill on Sunday. The command, together with all emergency services and government ministries, simulated a major earthquake causing 7,000 “casualties.”
“This is an opportunity for the general public and local authorities to prepare for emergencies which could catch us by surprise,” a Home Front Command source said last week.
On Sunday, at 11 a.m., the Home Front Command took over TV and radio broadcasts, and sent out text message alerts issuing instructions on what to do during an earthquake. The same will happen at 7 p.m.
The advice to civilians was to try and get outside.
Those who can get out within seconds should do so, whereas those who cannot should enter a reinforced safe zone in their building if they have one. Those who can do neither should head to the stairwell or hide under heavy furniture.
Israel sits on the active Syrian-African fault line, and geologists have warned that the region is due for a major earthquake. The Home Front Command says smaller fault lines in Israel could also cause quakes.
Buildings constructed after 1980 have been designed to withstand quakes, but those built before are highly vulnerable. The Home Front Command has called for the older buildings to be fortified, and the government has offered a free program to the public to reinforce residential buildings against the threat of an earthquake.
A rocket-proof safe zone is also a useful hiding spot during earthquakes if one cannot get out of a building in time, the Home Front Command says.
In any real earthquake, the Israel Police would have initial command of the situation, but if wide-scale destruction occurs, the Home Front Command would take charge.
Emergency responders were not told of the specifics of the drill, and were expected to react to unknown factors as the exercise developed.
“We have to create an awareness among the public,” the source said. “The threat of an earthquake is more complex than that of missiles.”
“With missiles, we know where they land immediately. We may not know the initial locations of all the damage in an earthquake,” the source added.
“Like our missile awareness campaign, the point is to tell families to be prepared ahead of time,” the source said.
The first few hours after an earthquake were the most critical, when emergency responders must put together an evaluation of the damage across the country.
If communications break down, the Home Front Command plans to drop leaflets across affected areas from the air.
Emergency planners have also taken into account the threat of enemy missile fire following an earthquake.
“If I could choose between the scenario of an earthquake and the scenario of a missile attack on Israel, I’d choose the second, because of the scope of damage [that an earthquake would cause], and [because of] our deterrence abilities,” Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said last week.