Last Wednesday, Ambulance Merizan and United Hatzalah joined forces with the local and national police forces in a combined drill that simulated a terror attack in the city of Tevaria, Israel’s largest city on the Kineret, or Sea of Galilee. The drill simulated a terror attack that took place in the city’s IDF conscription office, which is a publicly accessible location that has a lot of military traffic and therefore, could serve as a target for  terrorists looking to harm IDF soldiers and officers.

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Vaknin participating in the drill

The combined police and emergency medical services (EMS) response to the attack highlighted the cooperative efforts between the organizations involved in an effort to minimize response times while safeguarding and allowing for treatment of the injured in the most secure way.

The drill was organized by David Merizan, owner and operator of Ambulance Merizan, and the Regional Paramedic of United Hatzalah for Tevaria and the Galilee. “For any terror incident or large-scale emergency, one of the most important factors that affect the outcome is proper incident management. As most incidents only last a short amount of time, it is of the utmost importance that incident managers be prepared ahead of time and know how to use all of the tools at their disposal effectively in order to achieve the best results,” said Merizan.

Merizan added that in Israel’s periphery, where the amount of ambulances provided by the national ambuance service is far less than it is in other locations, there is a far greater need for private ambulance companies to take part in such drills and work in tandem with other organizations. “The further one goes into Israel’s periphery, the more important such collaboration is.

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Participants in the drill in Tevaria

Both United Hatzalah and the private company Ambulance Merizan, have been working hand in hand with the police and other rescue organizations for some time now. We collaborate on rescue operations and we run exercise drills together frequently. This most recent drill is the second such drill in as many weeks.”

Merizan added that: “Last week, we held a practice drill with the police and special forces that simulated a large-scale earthquake in the region, following the series of small earthquakes that have struck the Kineret region. Official protocol in Israel states that the Police are in charge of managing all large-scale incidents or disasters. Thus, the police invited us to join so that they could learn first hand what our operational capabilities are, and they were duly impressed. We are a large and effective force that is very useful both in day-to-day incidents as well as during times of regional or national crises.”  

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Chapter head of United Hatzalah in Tevaria, Yossi Vaknin said: “The drill was carried out by the police and included S.W.A.T teams who took charge of securing the area and eliminating the targets. We were invited by them to participate in order to provide first response and ambulance services to the incident. The drill included a number of simulated injuries to soldiers who were stationed at the base. The injuries ranged in scale from complete system injury to minor cuts and bruises. The centralized location of the incident allowed our teams of volunteers to access the site and provide medical care just as we would in a normal mass casualty incident .  Sadly, terrorism in Israel is an occurrence that is all too common, and therefore it is not far-fetched to think that something like a stabbing attack inside an army conscription base could occur.”

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Vaknin added that the organization not only dealt with the physical injuries but also with the psychological trauma that would be a natural fallout if such an attack were to occur. “United Hatzalah’s integrated Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteers, who have been very successful at operating and providing care in the field to those who need it following traumatic events, were also a part of the drill. These volunteers treated those who simulated being in psychological or emotional distress as part of the drill. Our volunteers from this specialized unit displayed their proficiency and professionalism on all fronts and all of the teams involved in the drill were impressed. Overall, I’d say the drill was a success and that moving forward, we know that we have teams across the city that both the professional organizations and the civilian population can rely upon to provide a fast and effective response should the worst occur. That is exactly what you want from your first responders, be they military, medical, police or fire. Drilling together means that we know one another, and we know what the other teams can do and how they operate. That will result in our working better together in the future.”