The international conference provided an opportunity for professionals from througout the world to share the latest findings and new experiences concerning health system readiness for emergencies of all types.

Israel leads global effort to face chemical warfare


Copyright: IDF Spokesperson

On January10-13, 2016, the Israeli Ministry of Health and the IDF Home Front Command hosted the Fourth Israeli International Conference on Healthcare System, Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters. The meeting provided an opportunity for professionals from througout the world to share the latest findings and new experiences concerning health system readiness for disasters and emergencies of all types.

Special attention was given to emerging or re-emerging threats, such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or the Ebola outbreak, as well as threats posed by natural or man-made disasters that present a great challenge to human health and global stability.

The 4th IPRED (International Preparedness and Response to Emergencies and Disasters) Conference attracted 250 international experts from 30 different countries, from the U.S. to Brazil to Australia to Japan.

The conference highlight was a mass toxicological drill carried out at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, coordinated by the IDF Home Front Command and the Health Ministry, with over 800 participants from the IDF, the Health Ministry, the police, the fire department, Soroka Medical Center, and other emergency response teams. The drill included civilian first responders working side by side with military Search & Rescue teams. Following triage and life-saving treatment, the casualties were evacuated to a level 1 trauma center for decontamination and definitive care.

Hazmat-suited members of the Home Front Command, police, fire department, and Magen David Adom (MDA) wove through the casualties, dispensing antidote and bringing them to safe zones. Experts at the site collected samples to identify the chemical agent used in the attack. Soldiers from the canine special forces unit, Oketz, were deployed to find any casualties outside the area, while a police helicopter circlee overhead. When a fire suddenly broke out, simulating a bursting ammonia tank at the nearby train station, the teams quickly assessed the situation and contained the perimeter. Within an hour, all of the casualties were evacuated, all of the emergency responders were decontaminated, and the ambulances departed for Soroka Medical Center. There, the next stage of the exercise began, as medical professionals simulated decontaminating the victims.

Lt. Col. Aviv Ohana, Head of the Department of Public Health for the Home Front Command stresses that international coordination is essential in emergency situations like these, as manifested in the Home Front Command’s many emergency aid missions. Dr. Rebecca Florsheim, attending the conference from New York City, agrees. "When there’s a mass-casualty event, there are various groups from all different countries who come together. They don’t necessarily speak the same language; they have different skill sets and have to work together to best get the job done."