'Nation’s communications networks unprepared for emergency'

Meir Sheetrit says crucial communication systems are likely to collapse during a state of emergency.

MK Meir Sheetrit 311 Ariel (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Meir Sheetrit 311 Ariel
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Crucial communications systems will likely collapse during a state of emergency, Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) warned on Tuesday.
Sheetrit recommended that Communication Ministry director-general Eden Bar-Tal establish a top-level committee to recommend a course of action that will define how the various communications systems in Israel will plan for, act, and restore themselves during a state of emergency.
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Sheetrit initiated the hearing in the shadow of the temporary collapse of cellular provider Cellcom’s services on December 1. After he began to research the subject, however, he became convinced that there were a number of unresolved major problems.
That opinion enjoyed a consensus among all of the participants in Tuesday’s hearing, who pointed to Israel’s lack of a “communications map” and a national-level communications infrastructure.
During the session, Bar-Tal said that mobile communications during times of emergency were of critical importance.
Sheetrit responded that he had prepared a bill that would make it easier to install small antennas without special licenses to help alleviate the problem.
Bar-Tal said that his office would prepare an organized strategy to ensure that communications networks would continue to operate during emergencies.
The National Emergencies Network (NEN) will cooperate with the Communication Ministry in drawing up a plan. NEN official Ilan Davidi said his office would prepare a list of emergency scenarios and their effects on communications facilities. After that, the organization will prepare protocols for activity during emergencies, and will map out all of the country’s national communications infrastructures.
The NEN will also work to set up a radio-based communications network that will allow emergency responders to continue to operate without cellular communications. The next stage would be to integrate the same system for the ports and for local governments.
Sheetrit said his committee would hold a follow-up hearing during the Knesset’s summer session to ensure that the government agencies have held to a timetable in preparing a consolidated emergency preparedness policy.