HomeFront Command builds escape room to train soldiers for disasters

In use since June, the fastest time for completion is 43 minutes.

An IDF escape room  (photo credit: HOMEFRONT COMMAND)
An IDF escape room
(photo credit: HOMEFRONT COMMAND)
The Home Front Command is taking a cue from the civilian world and using the popular trend of escape rooms to train its soldiers.
With an escape room already in use by the Air Force, the army believes they are an alternative learning tool to help soldiers understand the material they have learned in a practical way.
“The ability to bring knowledge in ways that are different, in ways that are not usual such as sitting in a classroom, but in a more active way, are more effective and make the knowledge last longer,” Lt.-Col. Tal Rozin, head of the Home Front Command School told The Jerusalem Post.
Lt. Inbar Levi who built the room with her own hands together with another soldier over the course of four months said its goal is to test the level of community-intelligence gathering by soldiers and escape the room within the allotted time of 60 minutes.
“We think the best way to learn is to learn with your hands,” she said, adding that more than 100 soldiers and officers have completed the challenge since the room opened in June.
The technique of using community intelligence has been around for years, and the escape room is supposed to work on the soldier’s ability to quickly figure out who is where during an emergency situation.
Rozin said the technique plays “a central part of saving lives,” explaining that the army has used it in several catastrophic events such as the 1999 earthquake in Turkey; the collapse of the Versailles wedding hall in 2001 in Jerusalem; and the recent parking lot collapse in Ramat Hachayal.
The army, Rozin added, is always working on improving the soldier’s ability to gather relevant information from the population and said training soldiers in escape rooms is a great way to learn while at the same time giving them something enjoyable to do.
The room, which is located on the Home Front Command’s base at the Tzrifin base in Rishon Lezion, simulates a building that collapsed trapping several people inside four different apartments. The soldiers must identify those inside the apartments – including elderly and deaf civilians in one, soldiers in another, a family with children in a third and Russian speakers in a fourth – by using clues that, to the untrained eye, are hard to notice.
One clue Levi pointed out are garbage cans painted in the colors of emergency services and a path made out of bricks painted in the same colors as the garbage cans. Soldiers must figure out that numbers on the bricks are the numbers that will open up the locks on the garbage, cans which have clues inside them.
“In one of the garbage cans is a guide dog that was found barking outside the building by emergency services.
Soldiers must use community intelligence to understand that the dog belonged to an elderly blind man who is trapped inside the building,” Levi explained.
In order to complete the room, soldiers must hand in a sheet of paper documenting each individual who was trapped in the four apartments or who made it out safely. Because of the difficulty in finding the necessary clues, the best time for completing the room, so far, is 43 minutes.
“The difficulty of the room makes the soldier think harder in order to solve the puzzle of who was in the building,” Rozin said, adding that she hopes the completion time will improve.