Police Stations Top List of Buildings Unready for Quake

It is dangerous to be a policeman. If Northern District police already felt their working conditions were unsatisfactory and their work was dangerous, they now have another reason to feel concerned. It appears that nearly half the public buildings (5 of 13) at risk during an earthquake are police stations.

That is because police are housed in historical structures, like the Muscovia building in Nazareth and buildings the British left behind. It is fair to assume that similar buildings in the Center and the South are no less dilapidated, but the juxtaposition of northern buildings and the fault line was a significant factor in their placement on the list.

The comptroller's children go barefoot

Alex Plutno, the Accountant General's engineering and management head, released the list of threatened government buildings yesterday, during the first meeting of a special Knesset committee on earthquake preparedness.

Schools and hospitals appear on separate lists. Judges in the Kiryat Shmona Magistrate's Court also should be concerned.

However, the most embarrassing revelation on the list may be that the Haifa Comptroller's Office is located in two of the buildings deemed dangerous - despite the comptroller's central role in publishing a scathing report on the nation's earthquake preparedness, which cited buildings in Haifa Bay, among others.

In addition to these 13 high-risk structures, about 70 additional buildings were declared moderately risky. The treasury delivered the list to the interministerial Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness a year ago. But up until a few weeks ago, the committee had no chairman.

"Since then, nothing has happened," Plutno said.

However, it may soon become apparent that a committee chair would not have guaranteed that the treasury would have given the committee funding to renovate such structures.

Budget constraints

At the meeting, Professor Avi Shapira, chair of the Steering Committee for Earthquake Preparedness, once again presented the plan spearheaded by National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer.

Under the minister's plan, NIS 5 billion will be invested over 20 years to shore up construction. But there is no reason to assume the money will materialize.

"We recognize the request for 5 billion," commented Budget Department representative Batya Puderbeutel.

The term "request" deserves attention. A request is neither a plan nor an intention. Puderbeutel added, "The budget constraints are clear to all of us. The finance minister will have to make a decision."

Not during this term

Parliamentary committee chair MK Moshe Kahlon (Likud) attempted to understand whether the fact that the prime minister and national infrastructures minister said they would allocate NIS 5 billion bore any significance. Those two officials must have some clout.

Balad Party chair Jamal Zahalka, who was instrumental in forming the committee, said the cabinet took great pains to maintain future tense in its language: It always maintains that it "will allocate" the NIS 5 million, in the future.

Kahlon concluded, "The working principle of the Israeli cabinet is that there will be no earthquake. It does not allocate funds, only pretty words.

"It has not internalized the situation. The cabinet of Israel is not serious. It apparently does not believe there will be an earthquake during its term in office."

Shapira said NIS 10 is saved for every shekel invested in earthquake preparedness. He says that an earthquake need not be a humanitarian crisis.

"If we prepare as we should, it will only be a journalistic event," Shapira said.

In conclusion, the following is a partial list of communities that have already been mapped to identify areas at risk during an earthquake: Lod, Ramle, Beit She'an, Petah Tikva, Ramat Hasharon, Kiryat Shmona, Dimona, Arad, Afula, Hod Hasharon, Kiryat Ono and Yehud.

Residents of these communities need only wonder why they were granted such preference, and whether it is preferable, in this instance, to appear in a better location at the end of the list.