Anshel Pfeffer / Haaretz – 2009-04-08 22:43:34
IDF Planning Largest-ever Drill
To Prepare Israel for War
Anshel Pfeffer / Haaretz
TEL AVIV (April 7, 2009) — The Home Front Command is preparing to hold the largest exercise ever in Israeli history, scheduled to take place in about two months, in hopes of priming the populace and raising awareness of the possibility of war breaking out.
Should there be a war, Israel would have insufficient emergency and rescue response units, according to a senior Home Front Command officer.
Speaking with Haaretz, Col. Hilik Sofer, who is in charge of the Department for Population at the Home Front Command, said that “in wartime there will be insufficient Magen David Adom, rescue and chemical and biological warfare units. Even if we call up the reserves of the Home Front Command, we will have to rely on the population itself. We need to train for a reality in which during war missiles can fall on any part of the country without warning,” he said.
The Home Front Command is hoping to convince the population that in a future war the entire country can become a front without warning.
The aim of the nationwide drill, Sofer said, “is to transform the population from a passive to an active one. We want the citizens to understand that war can happen tomorrow morning.”
The exercise is scheduled to last an entire week and test a series of scenarios that include missile strikes with conventional and non-conventional warheads, fired by Hezbollah, Syria or Hamas.
Sofer emphasized that in time of war the citizens will be required to mostly rely on themselves. In emergency situations, the policy of the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry is not to carry out mass evacuations of civilians, even in areas that are close to the border with territory controlled by Hezbollah and Hamas.
Officers in the Home Front Command insist that they are not trying to scare anyone beyond a “healthy sense of fear,” according to Sofer. In an effort to blunt the severity of the message, the command has prepared an information campaign that is based on questions of children.
For the ultra-Orthodox who do not watch television, CDs with information will be distributed, and instructions will also come in Yiddish.
“The entire population will participate in the exercise, not only the schools – everyone,” Sofer said. “We will all need to practice for the short warning that we will have to seek shelter from the moment missiles begin falling.”
Each area will be given a listing with the warning time available to it, and magnets will be printed with the information that can be put it on fridge doors. Knowing that Tel Aviv residents have two minutes to prepare for impact will, the command hopes, encourage people to prepare a family emergency pack with a flashlight, bottled water, a radio and batteries.
State Panel: Take Home Front
Command Out of IDF Hands
TEL AVIV (March 24, 2009) — Responsibility for the home front should be transferred from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command to the Public Security Ministry, a governmental committee on preparing the home front has recommended.
In all wars to date, the committee’s report explained, the “civilian front” has been viewed as less important than the military one. Yet every war since the 1991 Gulf War has involved deliberate attacks on the home front by the enemy, a situation that requires the “civilian front” to be allocated equal importance to the military one.
That, however, is unlikely to happen as long as the home front remains the IDF’s responsibility, forcing it to compete with the military front for the army’s resources.
The Public Security Ministry, in contrast, is accustomed to dealing with civilian problems. Moreover, the police, for which this ministry is responsible, is the force entrusted with protecting civilian life in peacetime, so it makes sense for it to continue doing this job in wartime, the report argued.
The panel, which was set up a year ago and chaired by former minister Maj Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon, also recommended creating a permanent committee in the Prime Minister’s Office to coordinate different ministries’ efforts to assist the home front.
Meanwhile, speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University Sunday, GOC Home Front Command Yair Golan said the state will need to invest tens of millions of shekels to upgrade the siren systems that warn of rocket attacks in preparation for future wars.
During the recent Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, he said, the systems did not function properly outside a range of 30 kilometers from the Gaza border, yet cities outside this range, such as Be’er Sheva, did suffer rocket attacks.
Moreover, he said, the army’s assumption before the operation had been that one siren per 1,000 square meters was sufficient, but now, it believes one siren is needed for every 500 to 750 square meters.
Golan also said that periodic random tests of the system are necessary. Though the sirens are sounded every year on both Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day, this is not a proper test, he explained, because on those days, people are expecting to hear them go off at a particular hour.
Home Front Command Training
Volunteer Corps for Future Emergencies
Yuval Azoulay / Haaretz Correspondent
TEL AVIV (January 21, 2009) — Home Front Command on Wednesday said it is planning to create volunteer units within the local authorities in preparation for future conflict scenarios.
The volunteers will be trained by Home Front Command and will operate in the following capacities: assisting people in bomb shelters, distributing food to and caring for the needy and elderly, assisting disabled children, volunteering in hospitals and providing information to local residents at public service centers.
Home Front Command intends to establish the volunteer corps over the coming months. The volunteers will operate according to the need of each local authority under the supervision of Home Front Command. The will also be insured by the National Insurance Institute and will be covered by them should they be injured while on duty.
The group will experience its first test in June, as part of a national drill planned by Home Front Command called “Turning Point 3,” which will assess Israel’s overall preparedness for dealing with various emergency situations.
Two such drills have already taken place in Israel since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. They included alarms sounding across the country and in educational and public institutions and residents entering bomb shelters or other secure locations.
The Home Front’s Hysterical Calming
Uzi Benziman / Haaretz
TEL AVIV (January 6, 2009) — Tomorrow morning, every responsible citizen should stock up on three liters of water, canned food, a flashlight, a transistor radio, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit that includes: bandages, adhesive bandages, sterile pads, disposable gloves, tourniquets, disinfectant and scissors.
Also, everyone must buy polyethylene sheets at least 100 microns thick and transparent, 30-micron tape that is at least 55 millimeters wide. Tomorrow afternoon, after all the emergency purchases, each family should hold a meeting to discuss the threats against the state, describe the types of missiles that could strike, pick a reinforced space in which members of the household will hide in an emergency and decide on a division of labor.
These instructions are in the Home Front Command pamphlet currently being distributed to 2 million households, accompanied by a comprehensive ad campaign. The logic behind the ads is: Emergency situations occur suddenly; it is best to be prepared in advance; readiness saves lives.
The Home Front Command’s best experts were recruited to create a clear and convincing document. Self-defense experts have poured all the relevant information into it, psychologists have contributed insight into how to get the message across in the most reassuring manner possible, social workers have written recommendations relating to vulnerable population groups, physicians have provided medical input. Each instruction is professional, but the totality indicates a loss of common sense.
The tone emerging from the pamphlet is of a hysterical state, or maybe just a Home Front Command that has lost its grip, living with the constant sense of imminent severe warlike calamity.
Anyone calling on the public to immediately prepare an emergency stock of medicines and food, coordinate assistance mechanisms with the neighbors, prepare emergency cards for disabled relatives says of himself that he experiences a powerful daily feeling of existential threat. And anyone who decides to instill these fears in the entire population says one of two things about himself: Either he knows something important that is not evident to the common citizen, or his judgment is impaired.
It would appear that the majority of Israelis are not in the constant grip of fear that war could break out at any moment (which really does require taking the preparatory measures outlined in the pamphlet).
Last week, figures were even published indicating that last year was one of the calmest, security-wise. Even the people of Sderot, under daily rocket barrages, do not experience the emergency situation of extended stays in reinforced spaces that requires preparations of the sort advised in the Home Front ad campaign.
Their situation is closer to that of the people living in the major cities during the intifada: fear and preparedness against scattered attacks. Even the “Grad” rocket that landed in Ashkelon late last week doesn’t change the fundamental security situation (which is bad enough in and of itself).
What then is the significance of the timing of the distribution of the stress-inducing pamphlet? Are the state’s leaders heading toward an all-out war, or is the campaign the result of a bureaucratic decision and maybe some CYA?
There is of course an inherent contradiction between the Home Front’s duty – to prepare the population for possible emergency situation – and the need to maintain routine and not instill fear. The way to bridge the contradiction is proper timing: People in the North needed a pamphlet of this sort with the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War.
It is unnecessary now. It is logical to instruct the public to identify the reinforced space at its disposal and to recommend keeping the pamphlet in an accessible location, in the event of an emergency.
It is foolish to urge the public to immediately fulfill all the instructions. Haim-Bar Lev’s opponents said his cool demeanor was a kind of hysteria; of the heads of the Home Front Command it must be said that their calming campaign indicates hysteria and invokes it in others.
Five-day Home Front Drill Comes to Close with Mock ‘Chemical Attack’
Yuval Azoulay and Jack Khoury / Haaretz
TEL AVIV (April 10, 2008) — The nationwide home-front training exercise will end Thursday after five days of rehearsing responses to missile attacks. The operations will end with a simulated strike by missiles with chemical warheads on Afula in the Galilee.
During the week, units practiced evacuating people after mock missile attacks on Jaffa, Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. They also responded to a simulated seaborne terrorist assault on a beach in Tel Aviv.
GOC Home Front Command Yair Golan said Wednesday that 90 percent of the local authorities took part in the drill. The authorities that decided not to take part will be briefed, he said.
The Home Front will examine and evaluate all the shortcomings and malfunctions that took place during the siren drill on Tuesday and fix them during the year, he said. The Home Front Command plans to deploy hundreds of additional sirens throughout the country, Golan said.
He cautioned, however, that a siren could not be provided for every place lacking a transmitter system. In those places, the Home Front Command would warn of an expected missile strike by cellphone text messages or beepers, he added.
In Carmiel’s eastern industrial area, the siren could hardly be heard because of the absence of a transmitter system.
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