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the annals of logistical achievements

The Haiti earthquake happened on Tuesday, 1/12/10.

Benjamin Netanyahu immediately sprang to action.

Statement of Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1/13/10, 1/14/10

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Following the tragic earthquake in Haiti, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, 13 January 2010, ordered Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Public Security Ministry officials to quickly consider how to render humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean nation. To this end, an advance IDF Home Front Command, IDF Medical Corps and Foreign Ministry delegation has already departed for Haiti.

Israeli Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Amos Radian has been instructed to proceed to Haiti in order to report on the situation there. The Israeli Embassy in the US has been instructed to be in contact with American aid officials in order to coordinate humanitarian assistance and rescue activities and adapt them to the needs of the affected area.

14 January 2010
...Prime Minister Netanyahu added, "Our decision to immediately dispatch a large Israeli team of doctors, nurses, medics, search and rescue personnel, medicines and equipment for a field hospital and operating room to Haiti expresses the deep values that have characterized the Jewish people and the State of Israel all throughout our history. Given Israel's security needs, we have accumulated much search and rescue experience over the years.  We have applied this experience previously in disaster scenes throughout the world - in Mexico, Argentina, Armenia, Kenya, Turkey and elsewhere.  I hope and wish that the Israeli mission will succeed, this time as well, in saving as many lives - children, parents and families - in Haiti as possible."

IDF Spokesperson:

An Israeli delegation including Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IDF Home Front Command and IDF Medical Corp Personnel has departed (13 January) to the Republic of Haiti in order to examine the possibilities of offering aid following the recent earthquake.

The delegation includes engineering, medical, logistics and rescue experts from the IDF Home Front Command.

The IDF Home Front Command is sending search and rescue forces to Haiti, in order to aid with the rescue of the victims of the earthquake in the Caribbean country. During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Hispaniola island near Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince. The Medical Officer of the IDF Home Front Command, Dr. Ariel Bar, informed Israel Army Radio that measures have already been taken in order to minimize the preparation period of the operation. 

The Home Front Command constantly trains its search and rescue forces to respond accurately to emergencies. It frequently holds search in rescue exercises in cooperation with civilian Israeli bodies and international organizations, such as the Reliant Mermaid X exercise in August 2009, in which Turkish, US and Israeli naval and aerial forces cooperated. The Home Front Command and the Israeli Ministry of Health are also currently holding an international conference for emergency preparedness and response to share it's experience with hundreds of international officials.

ZAKA International rescue unit en route to Haiti

A four man ZAKA International Rescue Unit delegation left Mexico City this morning (January 14) on a flight for Haiti to offer immediate and urgent assistance at the earthquake disaster in Port au Prince.

ZAKA, recognized by the United Nations-as a volunteer humanitarian organization, will be the first Israeli team to arrive in the disaster area and will immediately begin its assessment and work in cooperation with the local and international emergency authorities.
The Israel-based volunteers were in the region having just completed their work in the recovery operation following the helicopter crash that killed Mexican businessman Moses Saba and three family members earlier this week.


Luckily, the Israelis were just running an internationally recognized conference on this very thing, to discuss best practices with experts from around the world.
First Emergency Response Conference Opens in Israel

Israel's first international conference on preparedness and response of health care systems to disasters and emergencies will convene in Tel-Aviv on 11-14 January 2010.

The IPRED conference, the first international conference for emergency preparedness and response, opens today, Monday, January 11, 2010, at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Opening speeches will include the head of the Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, the Director General, Ministry of Health, Dr. Eitan Chai-Am and the Mayor of the city of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Mr. Ron Huldai.

The conference is a joint initiative of the Israeli Ministry of Health and the IDF Home Front Command. These organizations work in close collaboration to assure effective preparedness and response of the health care system to mass casualty events and all other events that may impact the public health.

The IPRED conference will provide the participants with a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge, skills and experiences in emergency management, while networking with leaders of emergency preparedness from many parts of the world. It will enable the world's disaster and emergency experts and researchers together to review and assess best practices and state of the art preparedness to emergencies.

The first two days of the conference will be devoted to the presentation of the various aspects of handling emergency scenarios and will include workshops, presentations, round-table discussions and hands-on experiences based on advanced training tools. Hundreds of senior officials from Israel and abroad will take part in the conference, including leading guest speakers in the field such as:

* Mr. Arjun Katoch, India - Chief, Field Coordination Support Section of OCHA Emergency Services Branch and responsible for managing the United Nations Disaster Assesment and Coordination team (UNDAC). Mr. Katoch, charged with coordinating initial aid to disaster struck areas, participated and aided over 140 emergency and disaster events worldwide.
* Dr. Kristi Koenig, USA - An internationally recognized expert in the fields of homeland security, emergency management and emergency medical support.

The highlight of the conference will be a regional comprehensive biological exercise that will be conducted in Tel Aviv on the last two days of the conference, based on lessons learned from previous large-scale biological exercises during the past four years. The exercise will include hospitals, health maintenance organizations, emergency medical services, public health district office and interface agencies. The conference participants are invited to participate in the exercise (as viewers or as "mock casualties") in order to get a first hand impression.

The IPRED conference was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), and as a regional conference of the World Association for Disaster Medicine (WADEM). Abstracts accepted for presentation at IPRED will be published in the Journal of Prehospital and Disaster.


Also, luckily, the ZAKA Unit was in nearby Mexico due to the Moshe Saba helicopter crash which happened earlier in the same week. You may recall that crash. Here's some information I posted on it:
Mexican Jewish billionaire Moises (Moshe) Saba, 46, along with members of his family, have died in a crash of a helicopter outside Mexico City,. Six people were killed altogether, including the pilot. The Saba family is one of Mexico’s wealthiest families. The family’s pharmaceuticals firm, Grupo Casa Saba SA de CV (NYSE; Mexico: SAB) is one of the family’s business interests, which also include real estate, communications, and media. Moshe Saba was one of the investors whom Joseph Maiman approached to participate in the investment in Channel 10 in 2004, but he declined. Eyewitness accounts said that the helicopter burst into flames while still in the air. The helicopter hit a billboard before hitting the ground. Rescue services found no survivors. Although the accident occurred in a built-up area, there were no casualties on the ground.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard went to the site of the crash. He said that Mexico’s civil aviation authorities had opened an investigation. The accident was believed to have been caused by the stormy and foggy weather conditions at the time in the area on Sunday night. Moshe Saba was close to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and was a donor to many haredi (ultra-orthodox) institutions. He also a donor to Zaka - Identification, Extraction and Rescue, which today announced that a delegation would go to Mexico City to identify the dead. Ovadia Yosef’s son, Rabbi David Yosef, will accompany the delegation.
It burst into flames mid-air in the foggy weather, and then hit a billboard before hitting the ground in a built-up area. And you can see here,, photos of the Zaka team at the crash site, and it looks totally different than the description in the article -- it looks like they're in the middle of a jungle.
The following are photos from the helicopter crash scene in Mexico following the tragic death of Moshe Saba, his wife, son and daughter-in-law. ZAKA volunteers arrived from Israel in the morning, local time, and went straight to the crash scene to carry out their sacred work of collecting all human remains for burial. The four-man delegation from Israel is working with other ZAKA volunteers from the US and Mexico.

They conveyed their Haiti experiences to INN:

Volunteers from ZAKA, the religious emergency rescue group, said that they experienced a “hellish” Sabbath in Haiti but also experienced stirring moments during the Sabbath prayer. The ZAKA delegation arrived in Haiti on Thursday after taking part in rescue operations, collection of bodies and identification at another disaster scene – the site of the helicopter crash in Mexico in which Jewish financier and philanthropist Moshe Saba was killed.

The ZAKA delegation decided to take charge of rescue operations at the ruins of the Haiti university building, an eight story structure that collapsed. They worked around the clock, assisted by members of the Jewish emergency rescue team of Mexico, which had accompanied them from their previous mission, and using equipment from the Mexican army. They succeeded in extricating eight Haitian students who were still alive and suffering from various degrees of injury, after spending 38 hours trapped under the wreckage. News of this success circulated among other rescue crews and added to their motivation, encouraging them not to give up on the possibility of finding survivors under the ruins.

The delegation members described their Sabbath experience as “hell,” with hundreds of bodies strewn all about with nobody there to bury them, and the stench of rotting flesh in the air. The group held the Sabbath prayers amidst the ruins, and later described “a surrealistic sight of Jews wrapped in tallitot [prayer shawls] atop fallen buildings.” Many of the local people believed that the Jews were praying for the well-being of the injured and to the memory of the dead, and gathered around them to watch the prayers. Dozens of the onlookers approached the Jewish delegation when the prayer was over and kissed their tallitot.
That's so nice.


Meanwhile, not to get off on a tangent, but in Haiti, IsraAID, with generous support from North American Jewish organizations, set up aid stations in a stadium and triaged the serious cases to the Israeli Field Hospital.

IsraAID expands its relief operations, as a second medical team departs for Haiti

Just days after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, IsraAID/FIRST headed by Dr. Laor relief team was among the first to arrive, immediately providing urgently needed medical care to victims of the disaster. As the tragedy continues to unfold, it will be expanding its relief operations, with a second team that leaves Israel tonight to join the relief efforts already on the ground. The 14 member team headed by Danny Maor includes volunteer doctors, nurses, post-trauma and logistics experts from all across Israel.

IsraAID/FIRST emergency response was able to take place thanks to the generous support of American Jewish Committee, The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, B'nai B'rith International, The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago in addition to other federations in North America.

Amidst the chaos of the international humanitarian response, word has spread about the successes of the IsraAID medical team operating in partnership with Operation Blessing out of the Sylvio Cator National Soccer Stadium in Port au-Prince. Following rapid assessments, the team decided to position itself in an open-aired stadium where thousands of victims of the earthquake had sought refuge.

While IsraAID/FIRST teams worked around the clock to provide life-saving treatment, several NGOs and medical teams from France and the US joined the relief efforts, bringing the number of medical stations operating simultaneously in the stadium to a total of 14.

The partnerships and pooled resources, orchestrated by IsraAID/FIRST in partnership wiht Operation Blessing, have meant that more locals have access to urgently needed medical care. To date, well over 1,300 people have been treated and several serious cases were transferred to the IDF Field Hospital. Each day over 100 people were treated.


Anyway, just to get back to the IPRED conference for a sec... because the press release also mentioned that the IPRED conference is part of the regional conference of WADEM, the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine, which recently convened a world congress in Canada.

Welcome to the website of the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WADEM). Our association was originally founded 33 years ago as the Club of Mainz on 2 October 1976. This explains why our logo still contains the logo of the city of Mainz, Germany. Following the constant development of its scope and extension worldwide, and to better reflect its global mission, the name was changed to the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine.

....We recently convened the 16th World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine (WCDEM) in Victoria, Canada. The WCDEM is our association's biannual event. Currently, we are planning for the 17th WCDEM in Beijing, China in June 2011.

Also, this Kristi Koenig. She is really quite the expert. Homeland Security interviewed her way back in December 2001, when she was serving as Director of the Emergency Management Strategic Healthcare Group (EMSHG), Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs. She is obviously an expert in moving people around during emergencies.
It is true that we are very active at the state and local level. For example, EMSHG has 37 emergency managers geographically dispersed throughout the country. In addition to assisting with preparations of the local VA medical centers (VAMCs) in their regions, they assist with community and interagency planning....If local government becomes overwhelmed, officials know how to access state resources, and if the state is overwhelmed, it can access federal resources. In my experience, where I’ve seen things go wrong, is where people do not use the existing standard operating procedures and processes. Well-meaning people try to go outside the system, and that creates a problem in managing resources and accessing expertise. The disaster literature shows that in most incidents there is not a lack or resources per se, but a problem with coordination of the existing resources.

Between all the excitement with Jorge Puello and Russ Williams and the terrorist mayhem in India, it seems like this Israeli field hospital story has really faded into the background. And before we even understood just how exactly they managed to accomplish everything that they managed to accomplish. It just doesn't seem right.

I mean, what a logistical achievement. That takes coordination, and organization, and knowing people.

You know what I'm saying?