How do you administer a vaccine if you're wearing a chemical suit?
That's the kind of question heard in Israel as its citizens grapple with constant terror. To understand such issues, a group of security, medical, government and law-enforcement professionals from Pennsylvania recently went to Israel to learn about the country's security methods, and see how its officials prepare for, handle and prevent attacks.
"The challenges Israel faces are more than I first realized," said participant Dr. Edward Jasper, director of the Center for Bio-Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. "Here, we're supposed to get the scene declared safe before we go in. But in Israel, they get people to hospitals immediately rather than wait for the bomb squad."
The trip was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Government Affairs Department and Center for Israel and Overseas, and was funded by US Security Care, Inc., a security consulting firm based in Blue Bell.
"It was an incredible experience that wouldn't have happened without the support of Richard Wolfson and US Security Care," said Robin Schatz, Federation's director of government affairs.
Led by guide Gadi Talmi, a security official of the Tel Aviv division of the Israeli police, participants toured a military base, joined Jerusalem police officers on their rounds and visited settlements on the West Bank.
"We traveled to the Gaza border checkpoint, where missiles had been lobbed into Israel just a few hours before," recounted Schatz. "Our guide helped us understand the Israeli mentality of being put in a situation they really don't want to be in. They just want peace."
The visitors also met an Israeli trauma expert at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, as well as explored simulation programs at Tel Hashomer Hospital's Chaim Sheba Medical Center.
Said Jasper: "We're looking to do more in-house training, and they're looking to do more on-site work, so we can definitely learn from each other."
Brig. Gen. James Joseph of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said that he was most impressed with how Israelis record incidents and responses in order to enhance future preparedness, and how they develop programs to address the social and psychological consequences of trauma on all citizens, including children.
"We saw a lot of training practices we need to seriously consider here," said Joseph, who will discuss the trip at an upcoming meeting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region Three, based in Philadelphia. "What we learned in Israel will allow us to provide valuable input to state and local agencies."
The group also learned about Israel's airport security, its external preventive security, its extensive use of closed-circuit cameras on public streets and metal detection wands in public places, and even bomb shelters built near schools.
"We made some good contacts with the bomb-squad and intelligence people, and are learning information to keep folks in Philadelphia safe," said Capt. Walt Smith, commanding officer for the Philadelphia Police Department's Homeland Security Unit.
Trip participants also included Officer Thomas Lynch, a bomb technician with the Philadelphia Police Department; David Lindstedt, director of protective services for US Security Care; and the Pennsylvania State Police Department's Capt. John Lutz, domestic security liaison; Capt. George Bivens, intelligence director: and Cpl. John Rolfe, hazardous device and explosives supervisor.