According to official Home Front Command data, only 16% of Israel's population has received gas mask protection kits so far. By the end of 2012, when all available protection kits are expected to be distributed, only 60% of the population will have received one as result of budget cuts, the army said.
A report presented by Home Front Command Chief Major-General Yair Golan to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Thursday shows that when the current order of protection kits is completed, the production lines will close. In order to reopen them, the price of each kit would have to be doubled.
Meanwhile, gas masks that are designed for those with beards will not be distributed to bearded individuals but to those with breathing problems, since their production costs twice as much as the production of regular masks. As a results, bearded Israelis will have to shave their beards off if a war breaks.
'Not right to secure one classroom, neglect another'
Also according to the report, 24% of the population does not have access to protected spaces such as bomb shelters. About 40% of existing bomb shelters are not in usable condition. In addition to shelter repair, the Home Front Command is requesting to reinforce stairwells of buildings to increase security. It would take NIS 230 million (roughly $60 million) annually to bridge the budget gap and conduct the necessary restorations.
"It is a serious problem, but this is a budget gap," Golan said. "It's not right to reinforce the security of a classroom in a city, and not reinforce security in a classroom in an adjacent town. The Home Front Command maintenance budget was reduced by 25% since 2008."
According to National Emergency Administration Chief Brigadier-General (res.) Ze'ev Tzuk-Ram, the budget allotted to Home Front Command maintenance, employee salary and emergency drills has stood at NIS 17 million ($4.7 million) annually, but was reduced to NIS 14 million ($3.9 million) this year.
According to Tzuk-Ram, the level of emergency preparedness at government ministries is moderate at best.
"There is a significant gap between the preparedness of the ministries in Jerusalem and their branches nationwide," he said."At 60% of the local authorities there are no command centers that are supposed to manage emergency procedures."
Moreover, siren systems that are designed to warn residents if a missile is headed their way are also in disrepair, but Golan said that an alert can be circulated through the radio, television and text messages.
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