Home Front Command drill 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The air raid sirens that went off a little after 10 a.m. across the country on Thursday were little more than ambient noise in Tel Aviv, as commuters and pedestrians made their way through the city in no rush to find the nearest bomb shelter.
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Minutes later, the Home Front Command launched an exercise at the Mikve Israel agricultural school in Holon, which was meant to simulate a chemical weapons attack on the home front.
Around a grassy knoll, a mock rocket was jammed into the soil, as teenage soldiers by the dozen lay on the ground playing the role of casualties and a yellowish fog of “chemical gas” skirted the turf.
Officers at the scene said the drill was planned as much as a year ago, and was not called in response to the headlines about a possible strike on Iranian nuclear sites dominating the Israeli and global media over the past week.
The media glare was obvious to any observer, watching the Israeli and foreign cameramen photographing every hazmat suit and gurney, the pictures painting an instant narrative of a nation preparing its citizens for all-out war. The cameramen tried to frame the pictures with a dramatic flair, but the ancient fire trucks and the anemic water hoses sprinkling around the rocket did not make their jobs any easier.
A look at two of the fire trucks gave the impression that last December’s Mount Carmel fire disaster happened only last week, and caused some of those present to hope the Iranians won’t be watching footage of the drill.
Col. Adam Zussman, commander of the Dan Region in the Home Front Command, said the exercise was meant to “simulate a rocket that lands here in this area. What we trained for the whole week was a drill that trained all units to deal with the threats we’re going to deal with in the future – rockets or nonconventional rockets – and this particular rocket is nonconventional.”
Zussman said that the drill was planned a year ago, and “has nothing to do with the things going on in recent days in Israel.”
Rescue services were “improving all the time” and the drills “make us more prepared for these things we think will happen in the next war,” he said.
As the “casualties” were being carted off to nearby hospitals, Zussman had some words for Israelis on the home front who could face the brunt of a coming war.
“The only good advice I can think of right now is to prepare themselves and their private home and family for the worst, meaning get ready the room they’re going to be in when the rocket lands, or their gas masks, or whatever they think they can do to prepare their private place.”
The IDF Home Front Command completed a two-day exercise on Thursday that simulated a chemical missile attack on the Central region.
The drill was designed to improve the responses of all emergency services and disaster relief officials. It did not include the participation of members of the public.
Home Front Command rescue staff, paramedics, firemen and police led a drill evacuation of chemical weapons “victims” to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. The first-responders practiced purification techniques to rid the “victims” of chemicals before transporting them to hospital for further treatment.
An emergency center was also opened for mock shock victims and individuals searching for missing relatives.
Two gas-mask distribution centers were opened to test the speed at which protection gear could be distributed.
Air raid sirens were heard on Thursday morning in Tel Aviv and nearby areas.