The innovative system was approved by the government earlier this year and was budgeted at NIS 15 million (roughly $4 million). The budget also included the future purchase of a system that would concurrently issue Tsunami warnings. Similar systems already exist in several countries in the world, including Japan, Romania, Turkey, Canada and the US.
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However, the alert system, which requires the installation of underground sensors from Eilat to the Galilee along the Syrian-African rift, was not yet purchased. Once obtained, the system is expected to become operational in 2016.
The alert system would allow the public 10-30 seconds to find shelter during an earthquake. Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dic hter stressed that the Israeli public does not currently have an earthquake alert system, and that the "Turning Point 6" drill held this week only aimed to prevent a natural disaster from becoming a catastrophe.
'Turning point 6' drill (Photo: IDF spokesman)
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials arrived at the site of the drill to observe a simulation of a collapsed building. Soldiers participating in the exercise were held back longer than expected during the visit, and could only use hammers instead of heavy mechanic instruments due to the security around the prime minister.
"We are currently at a primary planning stage. The early version of the system that we examined generated many false alarms," a senior official at the Israeli Geophysical Institute told Ynet. "Our plan is to move forward on the system in 2013 and fully install it in late 2014. If everything works out according to plan, we will be able to fully operate it in 2016.
"Our decision to choose a different system than the initial one resulted from various discussions with international experts," he added.
The geophysics specialist also explained that "the main problem in Israel, unlike other countries in the world, is its long and narrow shape, meaning a noise in Jericho for example, would shortly reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while countries spreading over hundreds of miles can issue warnings at least 10 or 20 minutes ahead of the quake's arrival."
A Home Front Defense Ministry official stressed that local alert systems are currently activated in schools nationwide. Magen David Adom also uses the systems, through which an automatic emergency message is sent to doctors and paramedics.
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