Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Preparing for THE Big Emergency

Today my hometown of Efrat prepared for THE BIG ONE. It didn't matter what the "big one" would be, G-d forbid, Efrat is readying itself for all possibilities by participating along with many other municipalities in a National Emergency Preparedness Exercise.
Today's drill addressed the imaginary "evacuation of the city of Kiryat Gat after it was hit by an earthquake". As part of the exercise, virtual "buses evacuated children and adults from locations throughout the city," and brought them to different safe locations, including Efrat.
Volunteer Yona Seif explained that because the most dangerous part of an earthquake is the aftershocks, residents were evacuated as speedily as possible - taking nothing with them, just getting on the bus from wherever they were, in most cases without their "family, their teachers or their friends".
As I said, my community of Efrat is one of those safe areas, being prepared to absorb Israelis from anywhere in the country in case of a natural disaster - like the earthquake in our drill simulation, or the fires that drove residents from their homes last year in the Carmel or several years ago in the Jerusalem Forest. It is also prepared to handle catastrophic accidents, like the gas explosion in Netanya, or war-time emergencies, like when the entire village of Bar Kochba in the north was sent down to Efrat during the Lebanon War.
Originally, for this drill Efrat was ordered to prepare for "500 evacuees - 19 buses", but we opted for something more manageable this time around - 50 evacuees of all ages, languages and situations. Our "evacuees" were boys from the nearby Aseh Chayil School. Each was given an age and a particular problem - a 72 year old with a heart condition, a 14 year old who lost his cell phone, a three year old who wandered from his mother, a 20 year old who speaks no language that anyone can figure out. The boys played their parts expertly and kept all the Emergency Drill volunteers on their toes.
In the exercise, all phone service was down, so runners had to go from station to station to take care of any questions or problems.
Evacuees had to sign in and then their information was sent to the Misrad HaPnim (Interior Ministry), which collated all emergency center data. This would enable family members to find out the whereabouts of one another, and help determine who might be missing. According to Noa Reichman, one of the organizers of the drill, Efrat was supposed to keep evacuees from 24-48 hours in the Efrat Community Center or the Orot Etzion Boys School. Any longer stays would be in the dormitories of Neve Shmuel Yeshiva High School or the Shvut Yisrael Yeshiva.
Efrat's Emergency Squad was equipped with MADA (Magen David Adom) volunteers, social workers, psychologists, and folks to help with equipment, a children's play area and any other situations that arose.
Noa and her Emergency Drill supervisor and co-organizer Ayelet Avrahami have been working on this drill for the past three years, investigating all the institutions in the area to see which ones could hold large groups of evacuees, keeping all equipment up to date, and organizing volunteers.
Efrat Municipality workers showed up at the end of the drill. They had been meeting to solve other unexpected emergencies that could arise during an evacuation: Arabs taking advantage of the disaster by launching missiles, throwing stones or shooting on the roads; loss of water, electricity and other services; as well as other unexpected happenings.
Said one of the Moetza's representatives, "During a national emergency, we're going to be on our own for the first few hours - no army, no Home Front Command. Efrat has to be prepared to address its own problems until the Army arrives."
Efrat's Mayor Oded Revivi left the Emergency Center telling volunteers, "May our every meeting be only for a drill."Right now Efrat has 30 volunteers for the Emergency Preparedness Program.
Since the Emergency Center must be manned with volunteers of all sorts 24 hours a day, our town can really use your help. Please contact – Manu at the Security Office – 993-9350.
Ayelet (pictured left) in the Matnas – 993-2936, or Noa 052-875-2243.
Watch all the excitement of today's Emergency Disaster Drill (in Hebrew) on Voices TV: http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=200
Watch all the excitement of today's Emergency Disaster Drill (with English explanation) on Voices TV: http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=201

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