After minor tremors, IDF reissues earthquake instructions

After minor tremors, IDF reissues earthquake instructions

Government and army refresh preparations; Home Front Command says Israel will eventually experience major quake

An officer from the Home Front Command talks to students during an emergency drill at an Israeli school, October 2012. (Oren Nahshon/Flash90)
An officer from the Home Front Command talks to students during an emergency drill at an Israeli school, October 2012. (Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

In the wake of a succession of minor earthquakes this week, the IDF’s Home Front Command reissued instructions for dealing with a major temblor.

“Don’t think of an earthquake as unbeatable — experience accumulated throughout the world proves that appropriate preparation and proper action in time of earthquake can save lives,” read the Home Front Command guide.

Though it is impossible to predict when, “there is no question that an earthquake will hit Israel,” the guide read.

Still, the IDF stressed, there is no reason for panic. “There are no extraordinary activities in the command in the wake of the recent quakes,” the report stated.

The instructions covered building construction, preparing one’s residence, conducting family drills, and stocking up on emergency supplies. The guide also included instructions on what to do in certain specific situations. Those on a visit to the beach, for example, were instructed to travel at least a kilometer inland to escape the risk of tsunamis.

The IDF noted that the Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue unit concluded its annual exercise last week.

“We are very hopeful that in the real trial, we will be able to do our work in the best possible way,” the commander of the Search and Rescue Unit said. “We are in very close contact with the governmental Committee for Earthquake Preparedness, whom we met with today, and with the other bodies who will be called upon in an emergency.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special ministerial meeting to discuss national preparedness in case of a major quake and “refresh” procedures for coping with a quake.

Netanyahu ordered the Home Front Command to make sure citizens knew what to do in the event of a quake, and ministers also decided to arrange earthquake preparedness drills in the north of the country, where this week’s tremors were centered.

Two tremors Sunday took place in the Sea of Galilee area, and numerous buildings in the area’s main city, Tiberias, sustained minor damage.

Tiberias city engineer Moti Lavie said “hundreds of buildings” in the city predate rules in force since 1980 on building to minimize likely earthquake damage, and that “they are likely to collapse” in the event of a quake registering 5 or over on the Richter scale. Nationwide, an estimated 100,000 buildings are not properly constructed to withstand quake damage, Channel 2 news reported Monday.

Netanyahu met Monday to discuss “refreshing” earthquake preparations with Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg. The meeting came on the heels of a similar discussion between IDF Home Front Command and the emergency services officials Sunday night following a fourth earthquake in northern Israel in just four days.

Sunday night’s meeting was held at the Ministry of Home Front Defense at the behest of Erdan (Likud), and was attended by representatives of Israel’s paramedic, firefighting and police services, and of the Defense, Health and Education ministries.

The officials decided to continue monitoring the situation while increasing home front readiness for natural disasters.

Twice Sunday, minor earthquakes shook northern Israel. No injuries or major damage were reported in the the 3.6-magnitude quakes. Both epicenters were near Kibbutz Ginosar, on the Sea of Galilee.

Similarly powerful quakes rattled the north early Saturday morning and Thursday. Last Sunday, a 6.4-magnitude quake, centered in the Mediterranean Sea near Crete, was felt in Athens, Egypt and Israel. In September, an early-morning 3.5-magnitude quake was felt in the northern Dead Sea area, including in Jerusalem.

Israel held a massive Home Front drill last October, codenamed Turning Point 6, which was aimed at raising the preparedness of citizens, local authorities, and emergency services for dealing with natural disasters.

The exercise exposed significant shortcomings in Israel’s ability to respond to natural and man-made disasters, particularly in the lack of coordination between the army, the police and emergency services.

“An earthquake in Israel is more dangerous than war,” the then-chief of the Home Front Command warned.

Seismologist Dov Lakovsky of the Geophysical Institute of Israel told The Times of Israel Sunday that there was no cause for alarm and that the recent quakes were just “a bit stronger than usual.” Such tremblers, he said, “happen all the time.”

According to the GII’s statistics, seven earthquakes strong enough to be felt have rattled Israel in 2013. The most powerful one, centered near the Suez Canal on June 1, registered 5.0 on the Richter scale.

Israel’s last major earthquake shook the region in 1927 — a 6.2-magnitude quake that killed 500 and injured another 700. An earthquake in 1837 left as many as 5,000 people dead. Major earthquakes strike Israel once every 80 years or so, meaning the country may be due for a serious natural disaster.

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