A new, pinpoint air raid warning system proved itself during the recent flareup with Gaza terrorists when hundreds of rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern and central Israel, the IDF said on Sunday.
The sirens only sound in areas which are immediately under threat when a projectile is launched into Israeli territory, unlike the old system, which triggered sirens in large areas where only certain towns and cities were actually threatened.
Thanks to this refinement, some half a million Israelis were able to go about their daily activities, instead of unnecessarily running to bomb shelters because of sirens triggered by rockets that did not actually present a threat to them.
Formerly, the country was divided into approximately 250 regions, or polygons, as the IDF refers to them. As a result, a rocket on trajectory toward one town would often trigger sirens in the community next door, even though it was not in the rocket’s path. Many cases of panic and injuries occurred as people rushed for cover when it was really unnecessary.
The military’s “selective” alarm model divides the country into 1,700 polygons, effectively one for every town — and more than one for larger cities (Ashdod, for instance, is four regions, and Rishon Lezion is two).
“We have tested it before, but of course what we had in the beginning of November was the first big operational test of the system,” Maj. Tohar Nitzan, of Home Front Command, told The Times of Israel.
Among the places spared the trauma of sirens that would have heard them in the old system was Ness Ziona (population over 50,000). Or Haner, located northeast of the Gaza Strip, would have heard 19 alarms before, but this time it heard only one. The communities of Shlomit, Naveh, Bnei Netzarim — all in the Gaza periphery — did not hear a single siren.
In Ashdod, the entire population of nearly 250,000 would have heard sirens sending them to bomb shelters 15 times during the November fighting. Instead, each of the four regions the city is now divided into heard only a few sirens.
When the selective alarm model was first tried out last July, the municipality was wary.
“People don’t like new things,” Nitzan said. “They didn’t like it at first, but after this bout, we heard very positive feedback.”