Jewish Journal

Emergency Meeting

Specialists converge in Tel Aviv for a conference on disaster response

by Michael Aushenker

Posted on Feb. 24, 2000 at 7:00 pm

Experts from Turkey, Uzbekistan and Los Angeles converged in Tel Aviv last month to trade disaster response strategies with Israelis. United by a shared history of disasters -- natural and man-made -- specialists in the forefront of emergency care attended the week-long International Seminar on Emergency Situations -- organized by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The event was held at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

Indeed, many emergency care workers believe that Los Angeles -- perhaps the most accident prone city since Pompeii with fires, floods, riots, shootings and earthquakes -- could always use some pointers on disaster preparedness and response.

"The Israelis really know how to get people back on their feet and into society," said Ellis Stanley, Director of Los Angeles' Emergency Preparedness Division and conference participant. He added that Angelenos should note the manner in which Israeli civilians become "part of a response" to an emergency, i.e., the way they are trained from childhood to deal with the potential for disaster and identify potential bombs in unattended bags and packages.

City officials from Tel Aviv shared the methods they employed during the 1991 Gulf War when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles into Tel Aviv.

Israelis expressed interest in adopting a post-disaster trauma program developed by Yanki Yazgan, head of the Psychiatry Department at Turkey's University of Marmara, to help children cope with catastrophe through artistic expression. At the conference, Yazgan told his fellow specialists that in the wake of the August quake that claimed 17,000 lives in the Izmit region, more than half of the surviving children suffered from some type of trauma.

The conference also included a tour of Ichilov Hospital's facilities, equipped for gas attacks -- an emergency situation in which Israeli expertise is unparalleled.

Said Prof. Natti Laor, director of Tel Aviv Mental Health Center, "In Israel, we are very good at being altruistic and creative. But goodwill is not enough. We must internalize our experiences into the legal system and have standards like we do for chlorine or cholesterol."

Among the delegates who traveled to Tel Aviv for the conference:

*From Los Angeles -- Bil Butler and Constance Perett, Office of Emergency Management, County of Los Angeles; Commander Mark Leap, L.A.P.D.; Deputy Chief John Callahan, L.A.F.D.; and Fredi Rembaum, Overseas Director, Jewish Federation of Los Angeles.

*From Washington, D.C. -- Dr. George Buck, consultant to the Federal Government and the City of Los Angeles; and Cindy Larson, Department of Justice, Office of Victim Assistance.

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