The Home Front Command held an earthquake drill on Tuesday morning in 2,300 schools throughout Israel as well as at the Knesset and the President's Residence.
The students and teachers drilled leaving buildings quickly via escape routes to open areas.
As part of safety measures taken in the Education Ministry, earthquake detections systems have been installed over the past year in educational institutions built before 1980. An additional 600 systems will be installed in the coming year. The system identifies ground movements caused by an earthquake and sets off an alarm at the school. The entire project cost NIS 12 million.
In addition, 59 structures in educational institutions have been fortified to better withstand earthquakes, while 200 additional institutions are in the process of similar fortification work.
The Education Ministry said 10th graders throughout the country will undergo training during the next school year on minor extraction measures in the case of an earthquake.
"The students will be trained for minor rescue missions with basic and simple measures," the ministry said in a statement. "The training will significantly increase the number of civilians who could aid in the immediate rescue operations in the different municipalities, educational institutions, work places and more."
In addition to Tuesday's drill, students in the 5th-12th grades received lessons on earthquakes during February and March in an effort to increase knowledge and awareness among the students.
Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuab said the education system is putting an emphasis on "the immediate evacuation of preschool- and school-aged children to safety."
Furthermore, Abuab said, "the education system would aid rescue teams in affected cities, with psychologists, teachers-in-training and teenage volunteers, among other things."
While in the past students were instructed to dive under their desks in case of an earthquake, this year students are called to evacuate out of the building.
"We've been learning about safe environments throughout the year," said a teacher at the Yahalom School in Afula. "Since the beginning of the year, we've been drilling, watching Home Front Command instruction videos with the students, locating the safe place in any type of event—shelters, emergency exits, open areas, and more."
As the students headed out of the school building during Tuesday's drill, 5th grade students served as stewards, stretcher bearers and even firefighters. After all of the students evacuated the building, stewards searched the hallways to ensure no one was left inside, while teachers took attendance to account for all students.
The drilled was supervised by a lieutenant colonel from the Home Front Command and a security officer from the municipality who is in charge of educational institutions.
School principle Perach Bar-Cohen said, "The goal is to teach security and safety, while preparing for any emergency. Even when a student is not at school, he'll know what to do in any situation."
Drilling rescue operations at the Knesset
The Knesset also participated in the drill, with the Knesset Guard working alongside Israel Police forces, the Home Front Command, Magen David Adom and Fire and Rescue forces.
During the drill, the Knesset Guard evacuated crowds from the building out to its western parking lot and to a nearby basketball court, while triage stations were set up outside.
At the front of the Knesset building, firefighters along with the Knesset's rescue force drilled the extraction of trapped and injured people from the fifth floor using zip lines, ropes and ladders. Later, the Knesset's rescue force drilled extracting injured people from under wreckage at the energy center on the building's eastern side.
Also, for the first time, rescue forces drilled the evacuation of injured people to the hospital using a MDA helicopter, which landed in the nearby Wohl Rose Park.
President Reuven Rivlin also participated in the drill. When the drill began, Rivlin and the President Residence's staff evacuated the building. They waited outside for 15 minutes, and then returned to work.
"Preparedness is the key to minimizing casualties and to acting with level headedness during emergency," Rivlin said after the drill. "I thank all security and rescue forces for the work they do for all of us, both today and every other day, and hope we won't have to put our training to use."
In southern Israel: Hotel collapse, evacuating beach
In the southern city of Dimona, rescue forces drilled a scenario in which crowds began looting local food stores after an earthquake. Additional scenarios drilled were aftershocks that caused damage to infrastructure and buildings in the city and a freight train transporting chlorine getting off track near the city, causing a leak of hazardous materials.
Rescue forces in Be'er Sheva drilled a scenario of a powerful earthquake hitting the scene, at the Dead Sea the scenario being drilled was hotels collapsing, while in Arad rescue forces drilled a scenario of thousands of homes collapsing. In Ashkelon and Ashdod, the entire coastal area was evacuated as part of a tsunami drill.
All throughout the southern district, rescue forces rehearsed scenarios in which water and electrical grids collapsed, along with sewage flowing in the streets and blocking major traffic arteries.
The exercise also attempted to simulate a scenario in which there are dozens of deaths, hundreds of wounded and thousands who lost their homes. Police also reviewed a situation in which hospitals collapsed.
"These are complex scenarios that are likely to occur in the event of an earthquake and police need to be able to handle the situation," explained Haim Bublil, a southern district operations officer.
Shahar Hay, Ahiya Raved, Moran Azulay, Itamar Eichner and Ilana Curiel contributed to this story.