Friday, April 25, 2008

Disaster Response in Israel: Relationships Count

Interesting comments in this article from the National Guard Bureau on the trip made by NG representatives to a disaster exercise in Israel. They accompanied the Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF) Home Front Command (HFC), which is Israel's version of a National Guard.

For me, this was the key take-away:

Guard leaders also observed how the HFC works with civilian authorities and shares civilian assets to supplement its own after a disaster. Contrasts and similarities between how the National Guard and the HFC do business include:
  • Bottom-up versus top-down.Everything in the United States is local and then it ratchets up to the state and then the governor asks for the feds,” explained Col. Brent Feick, chief of the National Guard Bureau’s future operations division. “It’s a little quicker response from the feds in Israel, where the fire battalions and the police have a much more limited capability, and they rely more heavily on the HFC. Normally the governor wouldn’t call the National Guard until it was a much larger event because we put more effort in each state trying to take care of themselves. We’re the last in and first out. That’s our concept. In Israel, the HFC is almost always in there very quickly.”

  • Close local relationships. State National Guards are building relationships with mayors, police departments and other agencies at the most local level, Feick said. The military service required of every Israeli has helped the HFC build close ties with local agencies. “No matter where you are in the country, you have an appreciation for how the IDF and the HFC works,” Feick said of the Israeli system. “The mayor of Nazareth knew to donate the building … for this exercise because of his prior military experience. He knew that this would be an advantage to the brigade commander up here.”
The lesson? It doesn't matter if your system is bottom-up or top-down. What matters is relationships - being able to see what's needed from others' perspectives. That's an irreplaceable key to success.

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