The staff of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, in collaboration with the IDF Homefront Command, the Israeli Police and Magen David Adom, participated in a large-scale simulation drill of a major earthquake centered in the Dead Sea Valley, approximately 40 miles from the hospital. The drill, which was supervised by Dr. Ofer Merin, Deputy Director General of Shaare Zedek and Director of the hospital’s Emergency Preparedness Program, was held on Thursday, June 20.
According to experts, Jerusalem sits on a key fault line and historically the city experiences an earthquake once every 100 years. The Jerusalem region has not seen such a quake in more than a century. Over the past 100 years, Jerusalem has undergone massive urbanization and much of this construction, does not conform to basic codes to withstand tremors. Accordingly, the IDF’s Homefront Command estimates that a major earthquake of between 6 and 7 on the Richter Scale could result in over 7,000 dead and tens of thousands of others injured in the immediate Jerusalem area. Over 170,000 people could need to be evacuated from their homes as a result of a quake.
In the event of a catastrophe it is essential that the city’s key hospitals and their personnel can continue to operate at peak efficiency. Shaare Zedek’s location, tucked into the face of a mountain, is believed to make it better protected in the event of a major tremor. Although the original building, completed in 1978, was built before current building codes were enacted, subsequent construction has been designed and reinforced to be able to withstand a significant quake.
The drill tested the hospital staff’s ability to quickly and effectively evacuate medical departments and set up a triage field hospital on the medical center campus. Prior to the drill, more than 2,300 Shaare Zedek personnel underwent training to familiarize them with the relevant protocols for earthquake disaster response. During the actual event, 1,500 took part in the simulation where the building was damaged and portions of it needed to be evacuated. Physicians, nurses and other staff ran up and down the stairs, bringing “injured” patients to safety. A triage field hospital was also set up.
Following the simulation, Dr. Merin reported, “Members of the Ministry of Health and the IDF Homefront Command who came to evaluate the performance of the hospital in this drill praised Shaare Zedek, saying that we had established a new, higher standard for preparedness for emergency situations. I feel confident that after all of the efforts that have been invested in preparing for this drill, the Shaare Zedek Medical Center is more prepared for any emergency situation.”