Emergency response teams from the Indiana National Guard and the Israeli military took advantage of demolitions of several buildings Wednesday to practice search and rescue techniques.
More than 250 emergency responders worked through the rubble of three demolished buildings in Bloomington, including the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, the former Bloomington post office and the Wrubel computing center, to simulate the devastation of natural disasters.
The drill, named United Front II, combined the efforts of local, state, and international teams to fight the simulated impact of an EF-5 tornado in what officials describe as an unprecedented operation.
The drill was a combined effort of the Indiana National Guard and the Israel Home Front Command National Search and Rescue Unit. The Bloomington Fire Department and the Indiana University Emergency Management team, Homeland Security Task Force 1, Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force and ZAKA, an Israeli humanitarian organization, also participated.
Indiana National Guard Adjutant General Martin Umbarger says the purpose of the drill is simple: response teams must always be prepared.
“God forbid it would ever happen, but if it did like we have seen in Oklahoma, like we’ve seen throughout our nation a terrible natural disaster, or for that matter a man-made disaster, it just makes us more prepared to save lives,” he says.
Israeli Home Front Deputy Commander Amir Golan says the drills were a good learning experience.
“They learned to distinguish between the skills of the different groups that there are combined here,” he says. “To utilize the best of each group, I think it’s a very important event and very educational for us.”
Indiana and Israel units have worked together on missions and exercises before, but this is the first one in a civilian setting.