Home Front Command trains at-risk youth for rescue work

The fourth cycle of the Youth First project, teaching at-risk youth to save lives and give first aid in emergencies, concluded successfully last week

Date: 02/07/2013, 12:04 PM     Author: Dana Petrov

Last week concluded the fourth cycle of the Youth First course, a shared effort between Rishon LeZion's municipal Department for Youth Advancement and the Bahad 16 training base. The course trains at-risk youth for rescue work during emergencies.

Three boys and three girls completed the most recent cycle of the course after participating in a series of meetings once a week at the Bahad 16 base over the course of the last few months. In these meetings they received basic rescue training and learned how to extricate people trapped in rubble and to provide first aid. The participants also received training for CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) defense and participated in a rescue drill, even working with dogs from the Oketz canine unit.

The goal of the project is to train the young people to be a part of the city's emergency response apparatus. "The giving and volunteering empowers them," Lilach Tervinovich, Director of the Department for Youth Advancement, explained. "The activities strengthen their self-image and fill their afternoon hours. These young people receive a lot; the project gives them an opportunity to give back. We intend to integrate them already in the next city-wide drills," she said.

During the course the participants got to know the Home Front Command up close and even to experience some of their work. They learned how to use search and rescue equipment, worked at a structural collapse site with a company from the Home Front Command's search and rescue battalions, and participated in a first aid exercise.

"The primary goal was not to give them formal certification, but to create a connection with the [Home Front] Command by way of an experiential act," Maj. Yaakov Sagas, commander of the course, explained.

"We taught them to use tools and we gave them rescue competitions. We placed a number of obstacles in front of them and they competed to arrive first at the trapped [person]. They cut through iron, broke and drilled through concrete, and even extricated the casualty with a stretcher. In the first aid exercise we dressed them up with wounds and taught them how to treat them," Maj. Sagas said.

Maj. Sagas described the great effort that goes into preparing for a successful course. "We chose two instructors who had worked with youth before [their] enlistment in youth movements and the like," Maj Sagas said. "Afterwards we went to the municipality, to the Department for Youth Advancement, and we heard some details about the young people."

Opening doors to the future

The course concluded yesterday with a small but moving ceremony. One by one the boys and girls went up to the stage, saluted the commander of the course, and received a certificate authorizing them as rescue workers and a small version of the "rescuer's pin".

"I decided to go [to the course] because it interested me to learn how to use rescue devices," said 15-year-old Linoy, one of the course's participants. "I learned how to save people, with which device it is possible to lift things, and how to dress wounds. I very much enjoyed the course, every week I just waited for Wednesday to come."

Another course participant, 17-year-old Chen, expects to enlist in the IDF this year – she hopes to serve in the Israel Border Police, but she is happy to have received the training which will open other doors for her in the IDF, if she chooses. "At the start I was a little afraid of all sorts of things, like to go to a collapse site," she revealed. "Now I am afraid, but not like I was, I learned to grow up. It didn't matter if we succeeded or not, the course instructors always encouraged us." 

 "The work with them was very different because they're not exactly soldiers and it is not something that we deal with in the day-to-day," Maj. Sagas explained. "We want to conduct the next cycles during the summer, so more young people will come and also so the activities won't be canceled due to the weather. But in any case, for me it was an amazing experience."