The Ministry responds to the State Comptroller's report and details the efforts it has taken to improve its firefighting capabilities since the Mt. Carmel fire.
On January 9, 2011, the government decided to transfer the responsibility of the Fire and Rescue Commission to the Ministry of Public Security. The decision was made following the Mt. Carmel fire in which 44 prison service personnel, police officers and civilians were killed.
Once the decision was made, the Minister and the Ministry’s Director General began conducting a wide-range reform with the purpose of establishing a unified, national firefighting force, similar to the structure of the Israel Police and the Israel Prison Service. Additionally, hundreds of new firefighters were enlisted, and dozens of fire trucks were acquired, alongside new equipment and improvements to the operational preparedness of the fire service.
The Ministry of Public Security worked hard to synchronize and coordinate between the three main agencies under its authority: The Israel Police, the Israel Prison Service, and the Fire service.
Additionally, the Ministry did not wait for the publication of the State Comptroller’s report and already took steps to improve its capabilities immediately following the Mt. Carmel fire. The Ministry also inaugurated an emergency fusion center, intended to help provide a real-time picture of events taking place, both during routine periods as well as in emergency situations.
The Ministry of Public Security mourns the loss of those killed in the Mt. Carmel disaster, and will do everything in its power to strengthen the firefighting service.
The Ministry thanks the State Comptroller for his report, which is an important document that will lead to an improvement in the preparedness and capabilities of all the agencies under its authority.
A summary of the steps taken by the Israel Fire Service:
1. On February 1, 2011, the authority over the fire commission was transferred to the Ministry of Public Security.
2. The Knesset is expected to approve a law in the coming weeks transforming the fire service from a municipality-based network into a national force under the jurisdiction of the Fire and Rescue Commission.
3. Three hundred new firefighters have been enlisted.
4. An aerial firefighting unit was established:
The unit was established in May 2011, under the command of the Air Force, and consists of eight aircraft, each with a capacity of 3,000 liters. The unit is operated based on the request of the fire services. An amount of 1,600 tons of fire retardant chemicals was acquired as a strategic stockpile.
5. A committee was formed in order to establish a national firefighting unit, headed by the Director General of the Ministry of Public Security. An additional 30 positions in the fire commission were approved, including a deputy commissioner, head of operations, head of investigations, deputy director; and permanent positions were established in the national fire and rescue academy.
a. A national, state-of-the-art control center was constructed at the fire commission headquarters.
b. The fire and rescue academy was renovated, including new dormitories, new lecture halls, a workout room, new training equipment and a new kitchen and dining room.
c. Offices have been constructed at the fire commission headquarters for all commission staff members.
d. Plans are in the works for designing a multi-purpose training facility which will include fire and smoke simulations.
e. Eight new fire stations were opened in locations across the country. Additionally, foundation stones were laid for two new fire stations. Plans are underway for constructing fire stations in 12 more locations.
7. Acquisition of fire trucks:
The following fire trucks have been ordered:
Fire Truck Tender: The publication of a tender to acquire additional fire trucks is in its final stages.
8. Emergency Containers – The 24 emergency containers ordered have been supplied, which include emergency equipment for the fire and rescue services.
9. All operational fire trucks have been equipped with GPS navigation systems.
10. All fire trucks have been adorned with tactical signs.
11. Acquisition of protective kits:
a. Protective kits and shawls for open areas – 700 suits are soon to be acquired
b. Protective kits for structural fires – 1,700 kits are planned to be acquired
The suits will be distributed to fire departments in stages, between July and November 2012.
a. The “Shalhevet” command and control system, which manages the Fire and Rescue Service's operations, will be installed in all fire stations throughout the country, as well as the in the aerial firefighting unit and in the Israel Prison Service. The system will later be installed in the Home-Front Command, JNF forest services, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
b. A communications network is being planned that will connect the Fire service headquarters to the local stations through computers. Additionally, a backup communications network will be established.
A national radio system is being constructed.
a. Command and Control:
1) A national control center was established at the fire and rescue headquarters, manned 24 hours a day.
2) The Haifa, Western Galilee, and Tel Aviv fire service mobile command centers have been updated.
3) The development of the “Matash” fire prediction system has been completed, and it has been operational since January 2012 in cities with large forest areas.
b. Large-scale exercises have been conducted with multiple fire stations and additional emergency agencies, simulating extreme situations.
c. Operational guidelines have been updated.
d. Emergency scenarios have been formulated by a joint staff made up of the head of operations, commanders, officers, representatives of the National Emergency Authority and the Technion institute of technology.
e. Training exercises and drills have been carried out to make the firefighters familiar with the new guidelines and equipment, with special attention placed on forest fires, cooperation with Israel police helicopters, and preparations for earthquakes.
f. Joint training sessions have been held with additional agencies and forces, such as the Home-Front Command, the Israel Police, JNF, the Nature and Parks Authority, Magen David Edom, and the National Emergency Authority.
g. A plan of action for the Fire and Rescue Commission senior staff during times of emergency has been established.
h. Procedures for accepting foreign aid have been established.
i. Twenty-two units for special rescue missions involving heights or water have been established.
15. Dozens of courses and training sessions have been conducted for hundreds of firefighting officers.
16. Fire Safety:
a. Fire safety guidelines for cities located near forests and agriculture sites have been updated. These guidelines have been distributed to all the cities and fire departments.
b. A committee for protecting cities and forests has been established to determine the need for open spaces around prisons. The findings have been passed on to the Israel Prison Service.
c. The Chief Fire Inspector’s guidelines have been publicized on the following subjects: Youth camp sites, prisons, educational institutions, rescuing people from elevators, barns, garbage dumps and power plants, as well as the fire detection and extinguishing system required based on the use of a structure.
17. Additionally, the following faults have been addressed: Training facilities and programs have been updated, a course program schedule has been established, guidelines for accepting donations have been formulated, and the utilization of operational vehicles for non-operational trips has been forbidden.