IDF Preparing Hospitals for Chemical Attacks

Yaakov Lappin – Jerusalem Post Jan 3, 2012

The IDF Home Front Command is preparing all hospitals in Israel for a range of security threats, including large-scale missile attacks and chemical attacks, a senior military source told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

The preparations have been planned three years in advance, and bear no relation to current events or recent threat assessments. Exercises include training hospital staff to deal with conventional missile attacks, mass-casualty incidents and “mega-mass casualty incidents,” – involving 1,000 or more injuries.

“We train a lot for chemical weapons,” a Home Front Command source said. “This is our business, and only ours. There is no room for error.”

The drills form the only basis for dealing with a chemical weapon attack, the source stressed, “since we have no experience with this.”

The threat of a chemical attack from neighboring Syria is very low, but the defense community’s contingency planning includes steps to both prevent and cope with such a threat.

The Home Front Command’s medical department – under the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry – has been tasked with preparing hospitals for all possibilities.

All 27 hospitals in Israel have undergone intensive chemical weapons incidents drills – including surprise exercises.

The hospitals undergo a total of 25 emergency drills per year.

During the drills, people simulating patients are rushed into hospitals with notes attached to them explaining their particular scenario. On average, hospitals deal with 200 “patients” during the simulations – though on some occasions, the number has been as high as 700.

The Home Front Command has also created underground areas in major hospitals such as Ichilov in Tel Aviv and Rambam in Haifa, so intensive care and pregnancy wards can be transferred there in the case of missile attacks.

During Operation Pillar of Defense, the Home Front Command sent crews to four hospitals to create daycare centers for the children of doctors and nurses, to allow them to focus on treating patients.

According to Home Front Command evaluations, even in the event of wide-scale rocket and missile attacks, a low casualty rate can be expected.

The source noted that the 11,000 rockets fired from Gaza between 2000 and November 2012 (before the Gaza conflict) resulted in 22 casualties.

“That’s a casualty rate of one per 500 projectiles,” he said.

“The more than 4,000 projectiles fired by Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War of 2006 resulted in 44 casualties in Israel,” he added. “In the 1991 Gulf War, [then-Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein fired 40 Scud B missiles at central Israel. There was one casualty, from a door blown off a safe room. Some people are fear mongering. The numbers should be studied.”

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