The Bachar Sessions: Local Leadership
during an Earthquake
[July 9 07]
An earthquake is the world's most
traumatic event human beings could possibly experience. An
earthquake strikes at everything familiar in our daily lives. It
occurs without early warning and strikes at every aspect of life; it
impacts lives in large numbers; destroys homes which are people's
primary source of security; and impacts all life systems known to
us. A review of the latest earthquakes indicates that the main bulk
of assistance was provided by people who were in the vicinity of the
event. True, later on some kind of help arrived, either from the
state or from neighboring countries, but the main burden was carried
by the afflicted communities themselves as well as by the local
authorities, some of which have difficulty functioning in their
daily lives, much less in such a catastrophe.
We in Israel cannot easily discuss such an event because we have
(thank God) never experienced anything similar recently. We have
experienced wars, we have experienced terrorist attacks, but how can
these events be compared with an earthquake scenario? An earthquake
is such a complete tragedy to deal with that anything we have ever
gone through pales in the face of it. It is something completely
different, and its full proportions cannot be fathomed. However,
this is where the significance of the local leadership lies; it must
act within each and every local authority, actually put the entire
system in motion, so that the afflicted population can return to
their routine lives as soon as possible with trauma minimized as
much as possible.
What does Leadership actually mean?
Leadership does not necessarily mean managing the event; this can
very well be carried out by the authority's director and
headquarters. Leadership means: leading the bulk of the processes
which are going on simultaneously in every aspect and at all levels
of life; being the right person at the right place; showing the
population that you care about what is happening to them, that you
are part of them; making them feel that all of us will eventually
come out of the disaster strengthened, making them feel that someone
out there cares for them, someone who can be trusted, someone who is
a leader, the right person at the right time, the leader who will
manage to pull them out of the depths of horror into which they have
We are taught to manage staff jobs, we are taught to run
campaigns/battles and events. Leadership is indeed all that, but
moreover, leadership deals with people's strength, their capability
to motivate all people to take productive action. Leadership means
comprehending the basic needs – water, electricity, food, shelter;
but also something else beyond all these – making people believe
that they can survive, caring for the individual. The ability to be
with those people, to embrace them, to make them feel you are there
with them and for them; that you are all in it together.
We are taught all about military leadership, how to motivate
soldiers hiding in shelters to get up and confront the enemy and the
shooting. This is indeed leadership at its best, but out there in
the battlefield, in the war, there is a tangible enemy that can be
hit and destroyed, there is a sense of victory after the fight and
the attack. There is exultation. While here, in the midst of this
local disaster there is no visible enemy, only injured, dead and
missing family and neighbors. There is the stench of corpses and
overflowing sewers. There is almost endless work to do without any
kind of exultation. Here the leadership has to face an entirely
different kind of challenge, harder and a thousand times more
complex, but still possible and more importantly - binding.
Here are some instructive examples:
On September 11, 2001 after the collapse of the Twin Towers at the
World Trade Center, New York's mayor Giuliani did not himself take
charge of the event, or of what we are used to calling command and
control. What he did was only to encourage the population; he
understood that the city was undergoing a catastrophe and that the
most important thing was to talk to the people. He talked to them
about the terrible tragedy, explained that there were many
casualties, among them some who were personally very close to him,
but also suggested that they were all in it together and sure to
overcome it; he instructed people what to say and what to do,
grieved with the afflicted, and displayed general empathy which was
very helpful to all.
On the other hand we saw the mayor of New Orleans, Mr. Ray Nagin, at
the site of destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina; we saw his
mumblings, his failure to assume responsibility, his lack of
understanding as to what leadership was; and his search for culprits
to lay the blame on. It might be worthwhile mentioning that even at
the drills which had been conducted in town to prepare for what was
to happen, the mayor did not participate.
Both cities suffered heavy losses. But New York had leadership
demonstrating that there was someone in charge of events, who led
the way and inspired hope.
What happened here in Israel during the last war ( July 2006) is
also instructive. I wish to refer only to the local authorities'
level. I do not believe there is much difference between people who
live in Haifa, Naharyia, Aco, Carmiel, Shlomi, Maalot, or Safed and
Kiryat Shmona. Nor is there a significant difference between the
local authorities' employees in each of the towns I mentioned.
And still we can see that in some local townships the Municipality
staff stayed on and extended assistance to the population that lived
in the shelters on an ongoing basis - without resorting at all to
the services of national organizations. And then there were other
townships which completely fell apart, requiring soldiers to take
their place. The mayor did stay on, directing and guiding the
action, but without his staff. Although there might have been some
management skill here, there was no organizing, exciting leadership
which can inspire people to act even under stress and personal
None of the mayors in Israel had to face (and hopefully will never
have to) a catastrophe the size of an earthquake. However we are
practiced in handling smaller scale catastrophes, and we must learn
from the experience of others.
This is what Rudy Giuliani writes
about in his book "Leadership":
"All leaders are influenced by
people they admire. Reading about them and learning about their
growth inevitably enables a person who aspires to leadership to
develop his own personal abilities. If he's lucky, he can learn from
contemporary leaders, ask questions, observe them in private, and
decide which of the leader's methods could succeed in completing his
own style of growth. However, as much as it is imperative to learn
from others, a significant part of a leader's approach should be
formed by the raw material of his own life experience" – end of
quote – and my addition is – a significant part of his personal
characteristics and qualities brought along from his own origin as
Having studied international events, and also out of my own personal
experience I wish to present some points for contemplation on the
subject of leadership on a local level in case of an earthquake
A. A leader on a local level lacks the privilege of watching events
from afar/above, receiving information and calmly weighing it as the
head of a state/national apparatus would. The local leader must
become involved in what goes on on the scene, not just indirectly
involved, but actually being there, meeting people face to face,
witnessing their worst trouble and distress, and preparing
particularly for this purpose.
B. In the stages of preliminary preparations he should, without
hesitation integrate the citizens into his study of the threats, and
moreover, of possible ways to minimize the damage in their closest
environment. It has often been argued that the citizens should not
be made familiar with the various threats because "they would
panic". The truth is often just the opposite. Becoming exposed to a
possible danger in addition to being instructed and taught how and
what can be done - how the individual must prepare himself as well
as how the surrounding community does so - all this makes people
confident that they can prevail.
Such a structured procedure
enhances trust in the local leadership and creates a feeling of
partnership in the struggle and the knowledge that there is a
manager up there who shares the burden with them, prepares them and
will eventually know how to handle a catastrophe if and when it
occurs. Any attempt to suppress the threat and exclude the citizens
from sharing it will neither make the threat go away nor will it
make them totally ignorant of it; it will only enhance the feeling
that no one is taking care, no one is preparing to face it. We find
that it is this kind of behavior that leads to distrust in a
leadership, which might cause them to distrust the local leadership
in times of hardships.
C. It is imperative to present to the citizens the situation and
solutions in every possible way and to act persistently to recruit
them to work for the benefit of the community. This kind of daily
activity only strengthens the bond between the people within the
community and their trust in the local leadership. These people will
go on working even when the situation is at its worst, out of
continuous commitment and loyalty towards the population, the
community, their friends and the system.
D. International events must be studied, read and investigated in
order to learn from their experience anything that could be relevant
to our community. Because it is not enough to be motivated to act,
one should also know how to act both on the location and on the
E. We must know and remember that when an earthquake event strikes,
especially on a scale similar to the one we are referring to, its
impact will be on large areas, it will be difficult to transport
outside/national help to the local authority/the afflicted
community; it is possible also that such help may not get there at
all, or may not be enough, certainly not the massive help we are
used to receive in daily routine.
In other words, the head of the
local authority is left on his own!
However, he must have the means
to work with the people who were trained ahead of time, and many
volunteers who would be willing to do anything required, providing
they are guided and instructed to do what is right and effective.
The Municipality staff must know how to activate these people too,
and the Mayor leadership will provide the motivating mechanism to
act, as long as he does not expect "someone" from up there to come
down and do the work for you!
F. After the event has occurred, professionals and managers must be
allowed to work and act according to their training and instruction.
The head of the local authority should be on site, see for himself
what is happening, meet the people as they come out of the inferno
and collapsed buildings, maybe after having left behind their most
dearly beloved. He must be there with them, trying to find out what
can be done to ease their suffering even beyond what is expected of
G. We are well aware that these people cannot be given everything
they need, but they can be given the feeling that everything is
being done to give them what is within the range of possibilities,
that an honest effort is being made to provide their needs, and most
of all that there is someone to talk to. It is also important to be
with these people in their worst moments, including funerals and
H. But one should also not forget those people who have not been
directly hit, the rest of the local authority citizens. One must
address the general public who need to know what is really happening
and what is being done to help their friends who are trapped in the
stricken area. These people are the main source that can provide the
necessary help. They can and should be recruited to help the
I. The local leader should also instruct the public as to what to do
and what not. He should be assisted by the relevant professionals,
the city engineer, maintenance staff, water, electricity, emergency
department, municipal emergency services, the welfare and education
departments, municipal volunteer system, etc. They must be
instructed as to the existing dangerous areas: electricity,
collapsed structures, open holes and hazardous buildings, and also
informed regarding the way to volunteer, where to collect donations
of all kinds, educational institutions, etc.
J. One must remember that our
population is our "army" as well, and if we prepare them adequately
there will be thousands of "soldiers" able to provide the best
solutions in such difficult times. This is also the way to motivate
more people to lend helping hand and make their own contributions.
In order to do all this, a powerful local leadership is required,
someone who is self confident and better yet, proficient and
I would like to sign off by quoting a passage written by Ehud Olmert
(at the time the mayor of Jerusalem) about Rudy Giuliani's
leadership, in his introduction to the Hebrew translation of his
I quote: "Shock and dismay had
struck the citizen of New York and the entire world. It seemed that
despair, loss of hope and total confusion were about to take over.
And then – without a moment's delay, even before other people have
come to their senses – Rudy took hold of the reigns and swept his
fellow townsmen and fellow countrymen towards confrontation with
pain, confusion and bewilderment. He knew how to inspire hope and
joy. From the very first moment his figure showed up among the
wreckage, the dust and the destruction. We saw him display strength
and determination amidst the screaming and the pain, we saw him lead
where many around him fell apart, we saw him comfort and support
while many others where too helpless to act, we saw him support the
grieving families who had lost their dearest of all, we saw him lead
the urban-municipal systems to restore life to its normal course as
soon as possible. We saw him keep a clear composed mind, hold out a
helping hand, support, and caress, himself moved and moving others,
make decisions, determined and inspiring confidence and a feeling
that there is someone who could be trusted – this is leadership".
True, leadership is often innate, a gift with which not many have
been blessed, but this divine gift alone is not enough to provide
the necessary leadership qualities in times as difficult as during
an earthquake; one must take the trouble to learn from the past, to
constantly prepare the city systems even when it seems either
unnecessary, or not promoting re-election, or not one of the first
priorities of the municipality and the citizens -- even then
everything must be done to make sure that once a disaster occurs,
the local leader can be at peace with himself and his God that he
has done everything possible to deal with the catastrophe, including
his personal preparation to meet the biggest challenge of his life.
Avian influenza : Thoughts
on Protection [Mar 7
06]--Introduction: Experts world-wide have declared an international alert
to detect and isolate a lethal H5N1 subtype of Avian Influenza that may
possibly mutate into one that can spread among humans.
Unprotected workers in contact with birds could become infected with the
Influenza. These workers, if unprotected and exposed to infected poultry or
birds, may become the main cause of cross contamination and cross infection
from bird to bird. Within a very short time, an outbreak of the disease
could reach pandemic proportions.
In the event of infection, current policy
states that all birds within a radius of 3km should be destroyed. Such a
lengthy operation would involve many workers. These workers must receive the
best available protection at an affordable price.
It is not yet known precisely how Avian Influenza Virus spreads - both
amongst the avian family and/or from birds to humans.
The CDC and WHO suggest the use of N-95 face masks. N-95 filters are similar
to P-2 filters in the European Standards. Both definitions require the mask
to filter 95% - 94% of particles respectively. There are no tests or
requirements set for virus or bacteria filtration.
In my opinion, to be on the safe side, requirements from the filters should
not rely on filtration of particles only, but they should filter 99% of
particles in the size of 0.1 micron and higher, as well as 99.9% of
Spread of Virus - Contamination
The actual means of spreading the virus from birds to humans has not yet
been specifically defined. It can be assumed that contamination could stem
not only via aspiration or digestion, but possibly also via contact to the
exposed eyes or even bare skin.
People in high risk areas should be well protected by separating their
bodies from the outer environment. Protective covering to protect all head
orifices and bare skin, as well as complete body-cover garments, gloves,
shoe covers and masks are recommended. Without this type of protection they
are unable to work safely and confidently.
Level "A" Protection
Optimum protection would be “Level A 0r B” protection gear. Psychologically,
workers in contaminated areas or suspected contaminated environments require
such protection. “Level A” protection however, is not economical and very
expensive. Even if equipment is de-contaminated for re-use, there is still
the risk of Cross Infection. (Multi State Investigation of the actual
disinfection/sterilization of endoscopes… Kaczmarek RG. et. al. Am J Med
1992,92:257-61, Reprint: HFZ-161 CDC, and FDA) - and even such protection
allows only 20-30 minutes working time.
Disposable Device Concept
In my opinion, the concept should be to promote the use of disposable
devices only. (i.e. Masks, Garments, and Gloves). All should be disposable
for one-time single use. If re-usable devices and equipment are used, there
is the risk of Cross Infection, and any contaminants, viruses,
microorganisms, or particles can be transferred from one area to another by
means of the actual equipment/devices.
This is a more competitive and safer procedure than “Level A” protection.
Half Face Masks
If half face masks are used, eyes are unprotected. Research conducted by the
Israeli Ombudsman after the 1991 Gulf War, (when the population used the
"Simplex" face masks), concluded that 30% of faces did not fit the
size/shape of the face mask- thus preventing a ‘complete seal’. To the best
of our knowledge, the above research applies also to half face masks that
cannot seal hermetically. The incomplete seal of half face masks allows air
to enter not only via the filters--contaminated air within the mask is
inhaled. Verbal communication will induce leakage.
The use of disposable protective garments including a hood mask provides
inexpensive protection. The wearer is able to work for more than 60 minutes
up to 120 minutes, and is relatively comfortable and able to communicate
verbally. The risk of Cross Infection is decreased. The suggested hood mask
should provide full protection against microorganisms and optimal protection
against particles. Accumulation of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) within the mask
should be minimized.
Method of Use
After each use, garments are removed by turning them inside-out. Gloves are
removed in the same way. The mask is removed by lifting it upwards from its
bottom edge over the head, thus turning it inside-out, and turning it into a
receptacle to accommodate all other disposable garments being worn. The mask
"bag" is then re-sealed by means of the rubber bands already provided with
the mask (for sealing it around the neck whilst wearing it) - and the entire
package can then be safely discarded. This is a cost effective, inexpensive
and safe procedure, providing the wearer and the public with maximum
Terror at Airports [Mar 2 06]--Background:
Following the unprecedented terror attack of the 11th September 2001, a
great effort was made to increase the safety and security of the world-wide
In the USA a new governmental office was established, The Department of
Homeland Security (DHS), which combines all the elements related to homeland
security and terror prevention in particular. The main attention was
addressed to aviation security, in the passengers' terminals and on the
For this purpose, human and luggage detectors
were placed at airports within a short time. On airplanes strict security
arrangements were made, in order to make it difficult for terrorists to take
over airplanes and pilots.
But what about the vulnerability of the airport itself?
The goal of terrorist's organizations is not to damage airplanes: on
September 11th they did it because it was easy to highjack the airplanes and
blow them up against buildings as part of an event that had a great
significance on the American nation, and the Western world in general.
Terror organizations are continuing to
explore every possible way to cause mass casualty attacks on certain targets
in the Western world, especially aiming to disrupt the Western way of life.
A massive attack in an airport will not only
cause hundreds of casualties and injuries, but will also cause a great
damage to aerial transportation all over the world with a loss of hundreds
of millions dollars to the whole Western world.
Increasing the difficulty to penetrate
airplanes will force terror organizations to search for easier ways to
achieve their goals. In this case, the airport itself, especially the
terminals, will become the weak link in the security system.
Almost all countries around the world have invested money and great efforts
in the prevention of penetrating airplanes. Yet terror organizations can
easily smuggle large quantities of explosives or toxic substances into the
airport terminal, in order to create a mass casualty terror event at the
airport itself. Only in few airports around the world travelers are being
checked before entering the terminal.
On July 4th, during the first Independence Day holiday since the September
11 suicide terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a gunman opened
fire at the Los Angeles International Airport near the ticket counter of
Israel's El Al Airlines, killing two people and wounding at least three
The incident occurred at around 11:30 in the morning. About 90 people were
in the terminal waiting to board El Al flight 106 to Toronto and then on to
Tel-Aviv. Around ten people were at the ticket line at the time of the
shooting. The attacker opened fire at those standing in the ticket line,
hitting two people.
According to eye witnesses, two El Al
security guards moved to intercept the gunman, aided by an alert passenger.
During the scuffle, the security officer was stabbed in the back; he then
shot the attacker, killing him.
The FBI spokesman said the attacker was armed
with a .45-caliber handgun, and a 9 mm. handgun. Four people were injured,
including a 61-year-old woman who suffered from a gunshot wound. Authorities
identified the gunman as a 41-year-old Egyptian citizen, who had obtained a
"green card" to work in the United States in 1992.
According to CNN, the gunman's identity was
ascertained through fingerprints and records on file with the California
Department of Motor Vehicles, which had issued the perpetrator a license to
drive a limousine. The attacker was married with one child, and had been
living in Irvine, California.
After the shooting, passengers were evacuated
from the international terminal, and flights were suspended, while police
searched for additional assailants. Police reportedly detained two people
for questioning. An El Al official in Tel Aviv said the airline had
increased the security recently because of information received from both
U.S. and Israeli authorities. He did not elaborate on the information,
saying only it was "recent."
The Israeli Transportation minister of
transportation told Israel Radio that he believed the incident to be a
terrorist attack "Organizations, primarily Islamic extremist organizations,
are planning to hit Israeli targets outside [Israel]. And an airport is a
preferred target," he told Army Radio. "We believe we are talking about a
Israel's Army Radio reported that approaching
the El Al ticket counter did not require passengers to pass through any
security checkpoints. However, El Al has armed security guards posted in and
around the departure lounge. El Al ticket counters have been the scene of
several shootings in the past.
In December 1985, terrorists affiliated with the Abu Nidal Organization
opened fire with automatic weapons and threw grenades at the ticket counter
in Rome, killing 17 people and wounding more than 100. Almost
simultaneously, a gunmen from the same group opened fire at the EL Al
counter in Vienna.
In 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army, in solidarity with the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, opened fire with automatic
weapons and grenades at Israel's International Airport, killing 26
people--mostly tourists--and wounding 80.
Just imagine, what could have happened in Los Angeles on that morning if the
attacker was armed not only with semi-automatic handguns -- but if had also
carried a bottle of sarin.
But not only Israel has been targeted,
In February 1998 in Tokyo, Japan, A bomb
attack at Tokyo airport wounded one employee. Airport officials shut down
the sole runway for six minutes. The Tokyo police thought that radical
groups opposed to the expansion of the airport could be behind the incident.
In July 1996 a bomb exploded at Tarragona International Airport in Reus,
Spain, wounding 35 people, including British and Irish tourists. The Basque
Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) organization was under suspicion.
In March 1995 The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) fired mortars at
London's Heathrow International Airport in three separate attacks. There
were no injuries because the fully primed mortars failed to detonate.
"Today’s terrorists can strike at any place, at any time, and with a wide
variety of weapons.. We will prosecute our war with these terrorists until
they are routed from the Earth. The terrorist threat to America takes many
forms, and therefore we can never again allow ourselves to become
overconfident about the security of our homeland. the threat of terrorism is
an inescapable reality of life in the 21st century. It is a permanent
condition to which America and the entire world must adjust." - President
George W. Bush, Executive Order 13228, Section 2, October 8, 2001
The nightmare scenario
On the evening of Christmas eve, a nice looking lady walks into the Los
Angeles Airport Terminal with just a Gucci hand bag. The terminal is
overcrowded with passengers. The lady walks into the center of the terminal
and stands in the middle of a very crowded area. Suddenly, she starts to
shout "Allah Hu Akbar" (God is great), opens her hand bag, takes out a glass
bottle and breaks it on the floor. The liquid, with no color or aroma,
disperses all over the place.
Then the woman takes out a small hand gun and
starts shooting towards the passengers around her. The guards of the airport
move very fast. They shout to the people to lie on the floor and shoot the
lady ensuring she is dead. After just a few seconds all the people in the
area including the guards are lying on the floor with breathing
Nobody in the area understands what is going on. The passengers that are
still able to walk start running in different directions. Within minutes
there are hundreds of people lying on the floor, injured or dead.
Is it possible?
Each day thousands of people are coming to airports with a great deal of
luggage. Usually there is no security check at the entrance to the terminal.
It is not difficult to bring to the center of the terminal – which is filled
with passengers and their escorts – a luggage piece filled with explosives
or other hazardous substances and explode it there.
In most airports security checks are being done only after the checking in,
just before boarding. In other airports, security checks are performed
before the check in process, in the center of the crowded terminal, so
actually there is no secure way to avoid such an event.
The guards are skilled to identify a terrorist as soon as possible, to run
into the event and to attack the terrorist, but they are not trained at all
to deal with a chemical terror event. As a matter of fact, they will be the
first to get injured, and the passengers in the terminal will remain with no
instructions what to do. This situation will lead to panic that will cause
Needless to say that such an event would paralyze the terminal for many
days. It will cause an immediate change in security measures in airports
around the world, which will cause a temporary shut down of aerial
transportation and a substantial economic damage.
So, let's take action before the Attack occurs.
Are airports prepared?
In most countries, including Israel, the overall responsibility for
preventing and responding to terror events resides with the Police and the
Intelligence services. Many countries around the world have already started
to be prepared for a response to a terror event (although most countries
have not yet addressed chemical/ biological/ radiological threats).
Usually the response is based on the
capabilities of the guards in place and the "first responders" of the local
organizations. Even in advanced countries – like the USA and Israel – the
immediate outside response will arrive to the airport after too much time
(10-30 minutes). In a chemical terror event time is the most important
factor for saving lives.
In such a situation, the immediate actions taken by the local personnel –
security guards, luggage checkers, airport medical and general personnel –
will be the most efficient for saving lives. Therefore, the airport must be
prepared to respond immediately to any event until the responsibility is
transferred to the Police.
What should we do?
First of all, understanding that the airport itself may be exposed to terror
attacks and that the threat is real.
Establish an external system for checking people and luggage before entering
the terminal. We need a system that will be able to identify (by profiling
or through the use of advanced technology) the potential (or suspected)
terrorist in advance. These suspected people should be further checked in a
Train security guards and airport personnel on the indicators of chemical
events and how to take immediate steps required to survive such an event.
Provide the Airport personnel with small escape masks that will be part of
Train the guards and the others to wear escape masks and to immediately
distribute such masks to the passengers in the terminal.
Prepare messages instructing and guiding the terminal population to evacuate
(may also provide escape masks) the building and the hot zone ASAP.
Train the airport medical teams to perform a
quick clinical identification of the event and the possible agent that is
being used and provide immediate care to the ones injured.
Prepare the terminal escape systems and the personnel for a quick evacuation
of all the population to a safe area.
Task definition – in addition to their regular jobs – guards will act as a
task force for rescuing injured people from the terminal. (Working with
Prepare to handle the population inside the airport and its surrounding
Establish a combined doctrine including all organizations in the airport and
the first responders in the local area.
Establish command and control in a protected
and clean environment until the transfer of responsibility to the external
agency/ organization that will take care of the overall situation --
including decontamination of the first responders, the victims and the
Train all organizations and improve their readiness and preparedness.
Such a combined system of early security checking and quick efficient
response will decrease airport vulnerability substantially and allow for
rapid return to routine activity -- minimizing the terror organizations'
goals of great disruption and damage.