United Hatzalah first response volunteers participated in a training drill with the Crossing Points Authority (CPA) security team and the Fire Department that simulated a series of terror attacks against the Tarkumiah checkpoint on Wednesday. The drill simulated a shooting attack against some of the personnel at the checkpoint, a concealed bomb planted on a truck, a suicide bomber, and a person who fell unconscious as well as numerous victims of shock.
During the drill, four members of the CPA simulated sustaining injuries in the combined attack. First Responders with an ambulance from United Hatzalah arrived and treated the patients while security personnel at the scene dealt with the terror threats. The CPA is a branch of the Defense Ministry which is run by the division for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
“This was the first drill of this nature that I have participated in and it was eye-opening for me,” said EMT and Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit volunteer Irit Ravid, who was one of the medical responders who participated in the drill. “There are very few instances when an EMT gets to practice serious trauma in the field without actually having to treat a trauma patient. It allowed me to learn a lot about how to deal with scenarios that involve terror threats and active-shooter scenes,” she added.
Ravid who lives in the nearby town of Nachala said that drills such as these are necessary in order to help first responders and security personnel prepare for a real-life scenario. “This was a terrific exercise in order to help us prepare for the real thing, which will hopefully never occur. Whenever a person has to deal with these things in real life, it is excellent to have these training experiences to build upon so that we can act more efficiently when needed. Today we had this drill, tomorrow we have an intensive training exercise for trauma incidents. United Hatzalah works hard to prepare its volunteers for any and all scenarios.”
Deputy Director of Operations for United Hatzalah Ofir Ben Yitzchak who oversaw the drill said: “Today’s drill simulated four different security threats at the Tarkumia checkpoint which sees a lot of traffic from Judea into southern Israel.”
According to COGAT’s website, some 8,326 people passed through the checkpoint daily in 2017, and more than 2 million people annually. The traffic includes many Palestinians who cross the checkpoint in order to work, and some 1,300 vehicles driving across the checkpoint on a daily basis, almost one per minute. The checkpoint is one of the main transfer points for goods and supplies to and from the Palestinian Authority and serves as one of two main checkpoints for the city of Hebron and the surrounding Palestinian towns.
“Six months ago we were asked to participate in a similar drill at the Meitar checkpoint. Following the success of that drill, the CPA asked us to join them again in today’s training drill as well,” Ben Yitzchak added. “Our goals in these types of drills are to train our own first responders and give them experience to fall back on should they come across a real terror attack, but equally as important is the training that we do in terms of collaboration and cooperative efforts.”
“We ran the drill twice,” said Ravid. “The first time we ironed out all of the logistical mistakes and discovered that the two teams in the field, security and medical, need someone to coordinate their efforts. This person has to make sure that the medical teams work in tandem and simultaneously with, but not before, the security response. That way we don’t put the medical personnel in the line of fire and we make sure that there are people who are still able to treat the injured when the smoke clears,” she said.
“The position of on-site coordinator is an extremely important one,” Ben Yitzchak concurred. “We need to know the abilities of the security response teams at the scene and they need to know ours. We also need to know who the key people are at the scene who can direct us properly and safely to the injured patients without risking the safety of the medical teams. This drill allowed the teams at the checkpoint get to know us and our teams get to know them. This will facilitate faster and safer responses during real-life scenarios should they occur,” he added.
“I want to thank the Director of the Checkpoint Tzion Alon, Chief Security Officer Yaniv Avraham, Operations Director David Ben Baruch, and Shift manager Shlomi Abada for their assistance in making today’s drill a success,” added Ben Yitzchak. “The hard work of these individuals not only allowed us to play a major part in today’s training with their forces, but it also keeps us safe on a daily basis.”