Stay safe: The best places to go in the event of a rocket attack

A residential or communal saferoom is best, then a building shelter or public shelter. If those aren’t available, head for an internal stairwell or a room without external walls

Jeremy Sharon

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Israelis take cover inside a  bomb shelter as rockets are fired toward Tel Aviv, October 16, 2023 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Israelis take cover inside a bomb shelter as rockets are fired toward Tel Aviv, October 16, 2023 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

With heavy rocket barrages being fired every day at Israeli cities, towns and communities around the country by terrorist groups in Gaza, as well as sporadic fire from Lebanon, it is critical for Israeli citizens to know where to take cover during such attacks.

The IDF Home Front Command has clear recommendations for where to take shelter, which take into account the quality of the protected space itself and the ability to reach it in time.

According to the Home Front Command, a private reinforced saferoom, known by the acronym MaMaD in Hebrew, located within a residential home, or a communal saferoom in office buildings, government offices and shopping malls, is the preferred option.

This is because such spaces are designed specifically to provide protection against rocket attacks and other forms of bombardment, and critically take very little time to reach.

If someone does not have access to a safe room, the next best option is the shelter of an apartment building, provided it can be reached in time.

After that, public shelters, which are located at different locations around city neighborhoods, towns and small communities, are the next best option, again on condition that they can be reached in time.

Israelis near a public bomb shelter in the southern city of Ashkelon, October 8, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg /Flash90)

Building shelters and public shelters are both reinforced spaces designed to provide protection from rocket attack and other forms of bombardment.

Colonel (res) Prof. Yaron Bar Dayan, who heads the Home Front Command’s public outreach unit, emphasized that using these spaces depends on two things: that they can be reached within the amount of time the Home Front Command estimates a rocket can reach the population center in question, and that the space is ready to be used.

The Home Front Command has a webpage that provides information on the time it takes for a rocket fired from Gaza to reach the different cities, towns and communities around the country.

Bar Dayan said it was crucial to ensure that protected spaces are unlocked, and that there are no objects that hamper entry into the space or that could fall and harm someone in the event of an attack.

There is, however, a large portion of the population that does not have access to any reinforced protected spaces.

In that case, the next best choice is to take cover in a building stairwell, on condition that it is located internally within the building and has no windows or external walls.

Israelis take shelter in the stairwell of their apartment building as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, In Ashdod, Israel, May 19, 2021. (Heidi Levine/AP)

In a building with more than three floors, residents should go to a floor in the stairwell with at least two floors above them, since rockets can penetrate more than one floor.

The ground floor should not be used since the building entrance can expose anyone there to the rocket impact and shrapnel from the attack.

In a three-story building people should go to the stairwell on the second floor.

If someone does not have access to an internal stairwell then a room within an apartment with the smallest number of external walls and windows is the preferable place to be, although not a kitchen or bathroom where glass panels, mirrors and ceramic tiles might shatter and cause injury from the attack.

If that is not an option, an internal corridor should be used to take shelter.

If someone is outdoors and cannot get to any of the recommended protected areas, they should lie on the ground with their hands on their head.

A building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern city of Ashkelon, October 12, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Someone driving at the time of a rocket alert should turn off the engine, get out of their car and either find shelter in a protected space or, if one is not available, distance themselves from the vehicle and lie down with their hands on their head.

The Home Front Command recommended remaining inside a protected space or lying on the floor for ten minutes after the rocket alert ends.

In the event of a drone infiltration there could be multiple alerts, so people should wait ten minutes until after the last siren before emerging from the safe space.

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