Residents in Israel this week felt the earthquake and its aftershocks that jolted earthquake hit Turkey and Syria. While the tremor only lasted for a few seconds in Israel, seismic activity is common in Israel and has raised concerns as to whether or not Israel is prepared for an earthquake now. After all, Israel sits on multiple fault lines, including the Sinai microplate. Several geologists have warned that Israel will likely face a major earthquake in the future, although when it may occur remains largely unknown. However, the powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hit Turkey and Syria has served as a wake-up call for people in Israel.
A devastating quake occurs in Israel once a century, according to Dr Ittai Kurzon, a seismologist at the Geological Survey of Israel – a public sector organisation responsible for advising the government on all geoscientific issues.
One major concern with an earthquake in Israel now is that much of the infrastructure in the country was built prior to the mid-1980s including schools and hospitals, which are unlikely to withhold an earthquake. Israel’s building code called Standard SI 413 is also designed to make structures more earthquake resistant but it was only introduced in the 1980s and the 100,000 buildings built before then are at risk. Israel also has a Tama 38 program, encouraging apartment blocks designed prior to the 1980s to be remodelled by enabling owners to add or expand apartments, but these programs have had limited impact. However, more modern buildings which have bomb shelters are more likely to sustain an earthquake as they are made of iron which should not break in the event of an earthquake.
However, Israel has taken several steps to prepare itself for an earthquake, which could occur at any time, even now by introducing a warning system. The earthquake warning system detects the initial seismic waves and sends notifications to relevant organizations before the more intense tremors arrive. The system operates automatically and will soon be connected to the distribution capabilities of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Home Front Command, similar to the rocket alert system. When the alert is issued, the public is advised to evacuate, but the effectiveness of the evacuation will largely depend on the proximity to the earthquake’s epicentre. When an alert is received, for example, if an earthquake were to happen in Israel now citizens should try to exit buildings in a safe manner. If that is not possible, they should go to the closest bomb shelter, and if that is also not possible, they should take cover under furniture or something else solid. The project has incurred a cost of $13 million for Israel, and it will become operational on March 1st. However, according to experts, this is far from sufficient to protect the country.