Elite IDF Search & Rescue Units to Drill Saving Tel Aviv Skyscraper Dwellers (VIDEO)
The Israeli Air Force’s Unit 669 Search and Rescue teams, the Home Front Command, Fire and Rescue units, and the Israel Police are set to mount on Friday morning what will likely be among the most dramatic rescue exercises in recent years, Israel’s Walla News reported Wednesday.
In a horrific scenario, reminiscent of the attack on the World Trade Center on September, 2001, or 1974s “The Towering Inferno,” the mass-casualty event will drill safely getting thousands of people out of a skyscraper, in this case, Ramat Gan’s 69-story Moshe Aviv Tower.
The 235 meters (771 feet) concrete tower, touted by the owner as the tallest in the Near Middle East, contains luxury apartments and offices, and sees some 15,000 residents and guests come through its doors daily, according to the owner.
Police and rescue services, in cooperation with the City of Ramat Gan, will practice getting thousands of people out of the structure, located at the city’s busy intersection of Jabotinsky and Abba Hillel avenues, and close to the major Ayalon highway, a central train station, and the city’s bustling Diamond District.
The WTC attacks revealed the immense difficulty in devising ways to escape a high-rise structure. Until recently, Israel, as well, was not focused on emergency roof rescue protocols.
However, with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas threatening to hit the packed coastal Gush Dan region with thousands of rockets in future conflicts, as by Hamas in this summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, planners had no choice but to figure out how to evacuate denizens of such a giant structure.
According to a new coordinated procedure formulated by the army, police, the Home Front Command, firefighters and Magen David Adom and other first-responders, the centerpiece of the drill will be plucking people off the building’s roof by the 669 teams’ helicopters.
In the drill, the new protocols call for police Yasam SWAT teams, under the direction of the firefighters, to get into the building, and evacuate occupants stuck on the 14th floor of the tower, as an explosion rocks higher floors.
The congested Dan region holds more than 1,500 towers rising above a height of 15 floors, including 600 towers above a height of 20 stories, according to Tel Aviv police. However, Fire Service ladder trucks can only reach a skyscraper’s 14th floor.
Dozens of actors will role-play as elderly victims with varying levels of mobility, mixed in with thousands of real residents of the tower, who will be processed by the Municipality’s Welfare Department, in a mass-intake practice response, as area hospitals prepare for mass triage.
Meanwhile, other city personnel will drill logistics protocols, including blocking off nearby streets and arteries, rerouting traffic, setting up evacuation routes and solving the inevitable traffic snarls in the wake of such a complex operation.
In a previous evacuation drill held at the nearby Azrieli Towers, many procedural fowl-ups and technical problems were discovered during planning and implementation.
Police say early morning drivers should try to avoid the area, since traffic jams in the vicinity are likely.
Watch a video clip of Unit 669 in action: In January, 2013, the unit safely evacuated 15 people trapped on the roof of a building in Baqa al-Gharbiyye in northern Israel after they had fled a nearby field which became flooded. A Yasur Sea Stallion helicopter carrying a 669 crew arrived at the scene and safely evacuated those trapped on the roof:
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