Tomorrow morning (21 October 2012), a combined United States European Command (US EUCOM) and Israel defense forces (IDF) exercise, Austere Challenge 12, will begin. Austere Challenge 12 is the largest aerial defense exercise to take place between the two militaries.
These exercises are part of a planned training schedule that seeks to increase cooperation interoperability between the militaries. Planning for the exercise began over two years ago and is not a response to specific events in the region.
During the course of the exercise, EUCOM soldiers will be deployed in a variety of locations, including near civilian areas. Increased military activity may be noted and roads may be closed for short periods of time in order to ensure the safety of civilian vehicles. All EUCOM soldiers will depart Israel following the exercise’s conclusion.
The second drill is an internal one for Israelis. It will prepare Israelis and more importantly, our emergency services for a massive earthquake – it will simulate the deaths of 7,000 people. I was talking to Davidi a few weeks ago and he mentioned that every 70-80 years, there is a massive earthquake in Israel…we are, he told me, quite overdue. I kept meaning to mention the drill to Aliza, to prepare her for it. I know the schools will tell them in advance, but I still wanted to say something…with all that’s been happening, I forgot. So, she went to school today – hopefully to be told well in advance of the beginning of the exercise. Elie expects to be notified, as he likely would in a real emergency – though he won’t have to do anything.
Here’s the IDF spokesperson’s office explaining this exercise:
Tomorrow, Sunday, October 21, 2012, the national Home Front exercise Turning Point 6 will commence and run until Thursday, October 25, 2012. The Home Front Defense Ministry, the Home Front Command, the National Emergency Management Authority, the regional councils, government ministries, security and rescue organizations, the social services and education system, the health care system as well as public and private bodies will participate in the exercise.
The exercise provides an opportunity to prepare the public and local authorities for an earthquake. This will improve the national readiness and response by examining the cellular alert system, emergency public broadcast, preparing homes for earthquakes, understanding and implementing new directives in an earthquake and coordinating between emergency services.
On Sunday, at 11:00 a.m and 19:00 p.m a one-minute long broadcast will be aired on the major television and radio channels- Channel 10, Channel 2, Channel 1, Channel 23, Channel 9, “Kol Israel,” “Galey Zahal” and the regional radio stations. The broadcast will inform citizens that an earthquake is taking place, and will include instructions. These Home Front Command instructions should be followed, as they have proved to be life saving in an emergency.
On the first day of the exercise, the Home Front Command will activate the “Personal Message” system, testing the sending of alerts directly to cellular phones. Therefore, text messages will be received throughout the country at 11:00 am and 19:00 pm.
As part of the exercise education facilities and kindergartens, government offices and public institutions will practice going out of closed buildings. In addition, 250 local authorities will be part of the drill in coordination with the Home Front Commands liaison units to regional authorities. Traffic and vital services (including hospitals) will operate as usual.
The exercise, taking place for the sixth consecutive year, was planned in advance as part of the IDF’s 2012 exercise schedule and in coordination with organizations on a national and regional level.
So, sirens, traffic delays, and in the evening, pictures of people lying in the street, as if they had been killed. Israel – preparing for war and earthquakes…it’s a smart move, even if it does fill my stomach with butterflies.