Israel's Emergency Services to Conduct Massive Earthquake Drill

This is the first time that a Home Front drill deals with a natural disaster, rather than an act of war such as rocket-fire or unconventional weapons.

A large-scale drill simulating the aftermath of an earthquake will be held next week, in which emergency services will face a hypothetical scenario of 7,000 fatalities, 70,000 injured, and 170,000 left without a roof over their head, the Home Front Command said on Wednesday.

"The drill is designed to improve preparations for an earthquake, but will also prepare the public and ministries for other emergency scenarios," Home Front Commander Eyal Eisenberg said at a press conference.

This is the first time that a Home Front drill deals with a natural disaster, rather than an act of war such as rocket- fire or unconventional weapons. The scenario envisions, as part of the earthquake's after-effects, a tsunami deluging Haifa and Netanya, as well as the Yarkon estuary, Reading power station and Tel Aviv.

Dubbed "Turning Point 6," the drill will encompass 80 local authorities and all the Home Front battalions. Part of the drill will take place in a special "destruction site" in Holon, where the forces will train at finding and rescuing missing persons. In addition, the army will examine ways of dealing with dangerous-substance leakage in Haifa Port following an earthquake.

On Sunday, October 21, schools and kindergartens will carry out an earthquake drill during the day. At 7 P.M. television and radio channels will broadcast announcements with details of an additional drill that will take place, including what to do during an earthquake.

The Home Front Command has recently changed its earthquake instructions to the public, calling on people to go out into open areas rather than stay indoors. Buses are to stop but the passengers must stay inside them. Bathers must leave the beach immediately for fear of a tsunami. Anyone who cannot go outdoors immediately during an earthquake is instructed to go to the nearest building's fourth floor.

A large-scale drill dubbed AC12, in conjunction with the United States Army, is also scheduled to take place next week.

Asked whether the series of emergency drills might raise fears of a possible Israeli attack on Iran, Eisenberg said the Home Front Defense Ministry had decided on the earthquake drill at the end of 2011, as part of the IDF and emergency services' annual drills.

"If I had to choose between an earthquake like the one we're training for in the drill and a missile attack or an attack on Iran, I'd choose the second option," said Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter.

"The drill will provide an opportunity to examine the lessons we learned after the Carmel fire," said Police Operation Division Chief Nissim Mor.

The drill will also test cooperation among the rescue services, such as the police, IDF and fire fighters, he said.

The police will coordinate the drill at the first stages, then the defense minister will take over, he said.

Sitting as it does near the end of the Great Rift Valley that splits the African continent from Mozambique to Syria, Israel has known big quakes before. In Israel, the rift passes from the Red Sea along the Jordan Valley. Both Lake Kinneret and the Dead Sea, the lowest land elevation on earth, are on the fault. The last major temblor to strike Israel was in 1927: it registered 6.2 on Richter scale and killed 500. An earthquake in 1837 killed 5,000 people. According to the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, in 31 B.C.E., 30,000 people lost their lives in a regional earthquake.

An IDF drill - IDF Spokesman's Office - Archive
IDF Spokesman's Office