Texas Baptist Men volunteers spent three days learning how to remove an injured person trapped by rubble, handle a fire hose and recognize hazards such as improvised explosive devices—skills they almost certainly will not use but that will qualify them to provide disaster relief in Israel.
Personnel with the Israeli Defense Force’s Home Front Command and the Emergency Volunteer Project, an organization that recruits, trains and deploys individuals to support first responders in Israel after a manmade or natural disaster, taught TBM volunteers light urban search and rescue techniques.
In addition to classroom lessons at the TBM Dixon Missions Equipping Center, volunteers also participated in hands-on training exercises at the Dallas Fire Department Training Center.
The basic instruction enables volunteers from the United States to meet the minimum standards the Israeli government requires of all its citizens—to render aid to first responders in emergency situations.
TBM volunteers who serve as volunteers in Israel after an earthquake or other disaster will serve meals in field kitchens and perform other familiar tasks, officials of the missions organization emphasized.
“We’re not becoming first responders,” said John Travis Smith, chief operating officer for TBM. “We’re not putting people in harm’s way. We’re not going to be sending people into buildings to fight fires or rescue people who are trapped.”
At the same time, by learning how to respond in worst-case scenarios, TBM volunteers who serve in field kitchens in Israel will be able to care for themselves and not become a burden to first responders, Smith added.
In February, the TBM board of directors voted to enter a two-year partnership with the Emergency Volunteer Project to engage in cross-training exercises. In addition to TBM volunteers learning the Israeli approach to support first responders after a disaster, TBM also will train Israelis in how to provide large-scale emergency food service.
TBM workers also likely will be involved in water purification and distribution, as well as painting and repairing civil defense shelters.
In the process, TBM officials emphasized, volunteers will have opportunities to “share the love of Jesus” in Israel.
During the Aug. 9-11 training event in Dallas, TBM volunteers learned geological experts agree Israel likely will experience a major earthquake sometime within the next 20 years.
Representatives of the Israeli Defense Force’s Home Front Command also told the group 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since 2001. The nation places significant emphasis not only on protecting its citizens, but also preparing them to render aid to the Israeli National Police on an ongoing basis and to the Home Front Command in times of national emergencies.
Yifat Sasha-Biton, member of the Knesset in Israel, traveled to Dallas to thank the TBM volunteers for their willingness to serve in her country.
Adi Zahavi, international director of the Emergency Volunteer Project, praised the TBM volunteers for entering into a partnership to respond to disasters in Israel.
“This is a great example of cooperation between the United States and Israel, between Christians and Jews,” he said. “When I look at you, I know we are in good hands.”