Friday, May 25, 2007

Sderot Survival Tips

Tips for Survival in Sderot

The Color Red alert gives you anywhere between five seconds' warning -if the Kassam is being fired from close to the border, for example from Beit Hanun - to 30 seconds if it is being fired from further away, i.e., from close to the Gaza coast. The rockets usually come in pairs, or threes, interspersed over 30 to 60 seconds.

The trick is to know, at all times, where you are relative to the Gaza Strip, where the rockets come from. You need this information so that you will know which building to run to when you hear a Color Red alert.

If you're facing north, Gaza is on your left, and you need to hug the eastern side of a building, to keep the structure between you and the rockets. If you get this calculation wrong, you are exposing yourself to a direct hit.

If you're facing south and Gaza is on your right, the same applies. You may think this is obvious, but many a newcomer gets confused when the siren rings out.

Sderot is not as easy to figure out navigationally as, let's say, Tel Aviv. It's simple in "the city that never stops": the sea is on one side, and the town is on the other. Sderot is turning into a city that never sleeps. Fear is everywhere, even at the fire station, where the Tel Aviv crew try hard to hide it.

One thing you can try, if your wits are about you, is to watch where the sun is on its path from east to west. If it's morning, find the sun, and that's east, so you can figure out where Gaza is. If it's evening, the sun is in the west. If it's midday, look at your shadow: If it's behind you and to the right, Gaza is to your left.

Even trickier is what to do when you're driving and the siren sounds. Here the answer is unanimous: Get out of the vehicle and run to the nearest shelter or wall. If there is no building, lie down on the road and cover your head. Just don't stay in your car.

The main reason not to stay in your car is that rocket shrapnel - and every Kassam has ball bearings or bolts in its warhead - can tear through your gas tank and blow up your car. Remember to always have your window slightly open, so that you can hear the Color Red alert and the Kassam shriek.

"Everybody knows what to do when you hear an alarm - but in the end it really is a gamble, like poker or roulette," Sheetrit says.

"Some people even gamble with their lives and do nothing when they hear the alarm. Most people who have been wounded or killed by Kassams in Sderot were outside when they were hit. The Home Front Command sent soldiers here a while back and they went into each and every home here and explained to everyone what they need to do to protect themselves.

"Everybody knows, but it doesn't always help. It's not organized, and when you're caught by an alarm and the rockets start landing, it really is every man for himself. Some people survived because they didn't find shelter in time, as the shelter they were heading to was hit," he says.

Scary words from the city's fire chief, who turns off his air conditioning and sleeps with his windows open at night, so that he can hear the Color Red sirens.

--Wendy in Washington

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