Rocket sirens to sound in countrywide test later this month
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Rocket sirens to sound in countrywide test later this month

Army announces first national check of recently upgraded alarm system on November 26-28

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative. Children run toward a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi during a November 2012 military operation in Gaza, known as Pillar of Defense. (Yuval Haker/Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. Children run toward a bomb shelter in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi during a November 2012 military operation in Gaza, known as Pillar of Defense. (Yuval Haker/Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces will perform a first nationwide test of its recently upgraded incoming rocket alert system later this month, the army said Sunday.

The test is scheduled for November 26-28, with sirens being activated and warnings being broadcast on television, radio, websites and through the IDF Home Front Command’s smartphone application, the army said.

The system check will be conducted in different parts of the country over the course of those three days between the hours of 9:05 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.

The military has yet to release a detailed list of the precise times for the tests in each Israeli town and city.

In a statement, the IDF noted that this is only a test of the alert system. “Citizens will not be asked to practice entering bomb shelters,” the army said.

This will be the first countrywide test of the military’s improved incoming rocket alert system, which was installed in June.

“The Home Front Command sees great importance in improving and streamlining the process of warning citizens as a life-saving tool,” the military said.

With its new alert system, the IDF is able to give pinpoint warnings to residents of the country in the case of attack, sounding alarms in the specific towns that are facing rocket fire, rather than in the larger regions as the previous system did.

Under the old method, the country was broken down into approximately 255 regions. If the military detected an incoming projectile heading toward anywhere within a region, sirens would be triggered throughout the entire area.

This meant that many Israelis were sent running unnecessarily into bomb shelters, a development that ran the risk of desensitizing people to the sirens by leading them to think they likely did not apply to them, an army spokesperson said.

Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip fire rockets toward Israel from on May 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The new system, which will officially be rolled out at 5 p.m. Wednesday, operates based on approximately 1,700 regions, or “polygons,” as the army calls them.

This is meant to ensure that sirens are activated only in areas where there is an actual threat, ensuring both that Israelis outside the affected areas can continue going about their daily routines and that trust in the alert system remains high, the army said.

In order to simplify the alert system, the military also did away with a confusing region-and-number system for designating areas and instead uses the names of towns and, in the case of large cities, neighborhoods.

The six geographically largest cities in Israel — Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Hadera and Ashdod — have each been broken down into four “alert zones,” the army said, so that a rocket heading toward northern Tel Aviv, for instance, doesn’t force residents of the city’s south into bomb shelters.

Rishon Lezion, Herzliya, Netanya and Ramat Gan were each divided into two alert zones, the army said.

The military directed residents of those 10 cities to visit the Home Front Command’s website (available in English) in order to determine in which “alert zone” they live.

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