Health Ministry, IDF, police, fire dept. carry out large-scale quake drill

350 foreigners come to observe Israeli crisis expertise

IDF Home Front Command Soldiers take part in a earthquake drill. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF Home Front Command Soldiers take part in a earthquake drill.
The Health Ministry, IDF, police, fire department and other medical first responders, totaling over 1,000 people, carried out a massive drill in the Zikim area on Wednesday to test their preparedness for an earthquake.
This event was attended by between 350 and 400 foreign officials, including senior officials from around 40 nations. Representatives from Europe, the US, Japan, Australia, Africa and China, among others, took part in or observed the drill to learn from Israel’s expertise in handling crises.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, director of the Health Ministry’s National Emergency Operations Center Noa Hasdai said that the drill, which is part of the 6th International Conference on Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters (IPRED VI), was a resounding success.
Hasdai said that considering the center’s capability to handle up to 8,600 moderately injured people in a crisis situation, she took, “great pride…showing how we save lives” during a crisis to the foreign observers. She added that the conference itself has attained a strong reputation among disaster management professionals globally.
The senior Health Ministry official also explained the flexible adaptive culture that is part of the DNA of their disaster response.
For example, Hasdai said that in the event that hospitals were damaged in a crisis, her ministry, Magen David Adom, ZAKA and others, have plans for how to continue to operate emergency medical services in nearby hospital parking lots.

New issues that Hasdai said the Health Ministry and its partners must deal with in disasters include fake news disinformation campaigns and other cyber threats.
She added that in May 2019, there was an electronic disinformation campaign to cause chaos in the Meron area by broadcasting the fake rumor that there was a measles outbreak.
Her ministry and its partners are now prepared to combat such rumors, both to avoid destabilizing situations and to save the country from wasting deploying its disaster resources unnecessarily.
The earthquake drill, which also included discussion of protocol in a tsunami, was the highlight of four days of sessions with the foreign observers and marked the sixth conference of its kind in Israel.
Generally the conference is held every two years, with past conferences addressing major fires, flooding, urban terror, leaks of hazardous materials and even terror on a soccer field.
Col. Dr. Olga Polyakov, Chief Surgeon of the Home Front Command (HFC), also spoke to the Post on Wednesday, saying, “We’ve done this conference six times and every time showed six different scenarios, and this year we decided to simulate an earthquake.” She added, “We’ve never done that before, we’ve simulated a mass casualty event, toxicology event and so this time we simulated a natural disaster.”
The HFC’s Medical Department is a unique department which has two roles. On the one hand, it is responsible for providing medical treatment to all troops in the command, while on the other hand, it is responsible for preparing all civilian medical centers in the country for emergency scenarios like war, and for natural disasters like earthquakes.
If such disasters strike Israel, the HFC would play a central role in rescuing civilians from toppled buildings and providing them with medical care.
Israel has often aided countries struck by natural disasters, sending teams from the IDF Medical Corps and from the Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue unit to provide rescue services and medical aid in field hospitals in countries such as Haiti, the Philippines, Japan, Turkey, and Nepal.
While a tsunami was not simulated, participants discussed their effect and how other nations like Japan deal with them.
“There is a concern that tsunamis could strike Israel following a disaster like earthquakes,” Polyakov said. “There is no country in the world which is completely prepared for events like earthquakes and tsunamis.”
Instead, authorities can plan and prepare for such natural disasters including drills like those held on Wednesday during IPRED.
Planning is already underway for the next conference in January 2022.