Major Earthquake Drill to Take Place This Week

An earthquake drill at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Yerushalayim. (Flash90, File)

YERUSHALAYIM - Israel will undergo a nationwide earthquake drill this week. The drill, extending through Wednesday, will test the ability of local and national security and emergency treatment and assistance organizations to respond to emergencies caused by a major earthquake.

Israel in recent years has sustained numerous small earthquakes, but the potential for a “big one” definitely exists, as Israel sits squarely on the Syria-Africa Rift, also known as the Great Rift Valley. An earthquake centered in Tzfas in 1837, according to geologists, who evaluated the earthquake based on reports of destruction resulting from the event, hit at least 6.5 on the Richter scale, . Thousands were killed in that earthquake, which was felt as far north as Beirut. Tzfas was almost completely destroyed, and there was substantial damage in Teveria and in Arab villages in the Galilee. Another large earthquake centered around Yericho took place in 1927, destroying hundreds of structures and killing at least 300.

The drill’s highlight will come on Tuesday morning, when a nationwide earthquake alert will be broadcast on national media. Israelis will be instructed to take cover and exit tall buildings or other structures that could collapse. Rescue services will be activated, and will practice treating thousands of casualties in circumstances that could, chas v’shalom, result from a strong earthquake.

Israel has invested a great deal of money in recent years upgrading apartments, offices and factories to be able to withstand earthquakes. The Tama 38 program, specifically designed to upgrade older buildings to meet modern earthquake conditions, has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of funding for the upgrade of thousands of buildings around the country.