Defense drill to include cellphone warnings of attacks

Week-long exercise to include sirens with information sent to cellphones; growing fears upcoming war will include unprecedented missile fire from Lebanon, Gaza.

311_cellphone (photo credit: Bloomberg)
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Amid growing fears that in a future war Israel will come under unprecedented missile fire, the nationwide civil defense drill next month will include for the first time missile warnings to the public through cellular phones.
During the drill, called Turning Point 5, the IDF Home Front Command, the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Administration, the Israel Police and other emergency services will test their responses to a massive bombardment of Israel by missiles fired from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Iran.
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The week-long drill will begin on June 19. On Wednesday, June 22, air sirens will sound throughout the country in the morning and the evening, and regular civilians are being asked to participate in the drill and to search for the nearest bomb shelter or safe room.
The Home Front Command had considered creating a different siren for incoming missiles that are carrying non-conventional warheads, but in the meantime will continue to use a single siren and supplement it with information, including the type of missile and warhead, sent to cellular phones.
“The concept is that the public will know that a missile is on its way from the siren and will receive more information about the type of missile on their cellular phones,” a senior Home Front Command officer said on Sunday.
The focus of the drill will be on 84 local councils from across the country, which will undergo a series of simulations to test their ability to continue providing basic services for their residents in a time of war.
Last week, a delegation from the Home Front Command flew to the United States to participate in America’s version of the Turning Point exercise called “National Level Exercise 2011,” organized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard.
Led by Col. Amir Eshel, the Home Front Command’s chief operations officer, the delegation observed the exercise and even participated in some of the search-and-rescue simulations. The scenario was a massive earthquake in the central US region of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, aimed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the 1811 New Madrid earthquake.
Like the American drill, Turning Point 6, which will be held in 2012, will focus mostly on earthquake-related scenarios as opposed to missile attacks which have been the scenarios drilled during exercises following the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Ahead of next year’s drill, the IDF Home Front Command is considering buying a special simulator that prepares civilians and emergency services for earthquakes that it encountered in Japan following the recent tsunami.
“The simulator is a home that can shake and move during an earthquake and help people learn what to do in the event of the real thing,” the officer said.