While Home Front Command exercise "Turning Point 5" finds Israeli cabinet safe in a secret underground bunker, the general public at Jerusalem's central bus station is unprotected and indifferent. Jerusalem, Israel. 22nd June 2011.
PM Netanyahu and his ministers will take part in the "Turning Point 5" exercise today and conduct a cabinet meeting in a location-undisclosed, underground, bunker for the first time since its construction in recent years. The IDF, Home Front Command, police, municipalities and other security forces have been drilling since Sunday playing out an assortment of emergency scenarios including thousands of missiles landing in industrial areas, in a prison, leakage of hazardous substances, evacuation from homes, chemical warfare, hundreds of injured evacuated to hospitals, evacuation of bodies, emergency situations in ports, a cyber attack against a major power plant, and others.
Building regulations in Israel today require protected spaces or shelters in both residential and commercial structures. The goal of today's exercise is to raise public awareness and preparedness, to allow the public to get to know the protected spaces in their area and urges the public to evacuate to these locations as a siren sounds nationwide at both 11:00 this morning and 19:00 this evening. Over the past few months the Home Front Command has invested great efforts in publication of instructions to the public, broadcasting in all channels of media including television and radio - "Because we need to be ready, just in case!"
At the central bus station in Jerusalem the 11:00 siren could not be heard at all. In a closed structure that often congregates hundreds and sometimes thousands of civilians at once, it was an initiative by the private security department to announce the siren and the drill over the public broadcast system, asking all passengers to evacuate to the underground parking lot on level -2. Slight apprehension could only be noticed among the security personnel themselves. The general public was completely indifferent and continued with 'business as usual'. Knowing it is not advised to use an elevator in emergency situations, this journalist struggled for long minutes to find a staircase going down to level -2 as announced, unsuccessfully. There were no signs nor enough security personnel to direct the public. Finally I decided the elevator was better than nothing and went down to the protective area announced. Other than two security men waiting to absorb hundreds of evacuees, there was not a single soul there.
At 11:40 I received the following Tweet from @IDFSpokesperson: Home Front Defense Min: Israel's national drill = most signif. in world. @ 11 AM ~7 mil Israelis entered nearest shelter following alarm