Israel to use cell phone alert system for rocket attacks

The IDF says that, in two years, Israeli citizens will receive cell-phone alerts in case of a rocket attack by Iran, Hamas, or Hezbollah; sophisticated rocket sensor will calculate the trajectory of the rockets, predict the impact zone, and send a warning to all phones in that area

Within two years, the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) Home Front Command will install a rocket alert system in Israel that will be able to calculate the precise location of an impact zone, and alert residents in an affected neighborhood via their cell phones, a senior officer told the Jerusalem Post last week.

Col. Dr. Chilik Soffer, head of the Population Department at the Home Front Command, said last week that advanced rocket sensors would soon have the ability to calculate the projectile’s exact trajectory. “The rocket sensor will create a virtual ellipse [of the predicted impact zone], and all phones in that area will receive a warning,” he added. “We will use communications technology to send the signals, and we are now working with the Communications Ministry to make the alert available,” Soffer said.

Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Lappin writes that the alert will take four forms: A cell phone vibration, audio alert, light flash, or text message.

Currently, air raid sirens are programmed to identify and alert cities that are at risk of rocket attacks following a hostile launch. “The more specific the alert, the more ready people will be,” Soffer added. He noted that the technology available to the Home Front Command has come a long way since the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi Scud missile attacks set off air-raid sirens across the whole country. “There are 1,260 communities in Israel. There is no longer a need to set off a nationwide alert,” he said.

Soffer estimated that the total amount of rocket-delivered explosives possessed by Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas is no more than 3,000 tons. “For the sake of comparison, 3,000 tons of explosives were dropped in one day during the Dresden bombing raid in World War II,” he said.

Soffer stressed that the estimate did not take into account the IDF’s ability to destroy rocket and missile launchers, or air defense and missile shield programs that are currently in operation, like the Arrow 2 ballistic missile defense system.

Soffer said that 90 percent of the civilian casualties sustained by Israel during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza involved people who were struck by projectiles while they were in open areas away from buildings. Civilians who seek cover in designated safe zones during rocket attacks are not likely to be wounded or killed, he added.

Soffer noted that during the Gaza war, 95 percent of people polled in the South, where the rockets hit, expressed full confidence in the Home Front Command, and stressed that major improvements have been made since the Second Lebanon War.

He addressed criticisms directed at the Home Front Command’s largest-ever civil defense exercise, Turning Point 3, which was held in June. Some observers said the general population was not sufficiently involved in the exercise, in which mock air-raid sirens went off across the country.

According to a poll conducted by the Home Front Command, 46 percent to 60 percent of the general public drilled an evacuation to a safe zone when they heard the siren, with some regional discrepancies in the results.


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