On February 22 and 23, the Bank of Israel Currency Department held a nationwide emergency drill involving all elements of the currency system that are connected with the supply of cash to the public during emergency and routine times.
These included the banking corporations, cash centers, secured couriers, private ATM companies, and the Postal Bank. The drill took place in conjunction with the Israel Police, the IDF Home Front Command, the Ministry of Communications, and the National Emergency Authority’s Interministerial Committee on Earthquakes. The drill, which included hundreds of participants from the various agencies, is part of an on-going multiyear emergency preparedness process at the Bank of Israel in general, and the Currency Department in particular.
The drill examined how the currency system deals with a variety of challenges due to a destructive earthquake scenario in Israel. In such a scenario, there is a significant increase in demand for cash by the public in view of the volume of damage to infrastructure—electrical outages, a collapse of communications, building collapses, road blockages, collapse of the electronic payment systems, and so forth. During an emergency, the public also needs access to means of payment that are available, secure, and final, and needs to have a sense of personal and economic security.
The drill focused on the process of creating a nationwide picture of the currency system, and included dozens of field drills, in conjunction with the Israel Police and the Home Front Command, on the supply of cash during an emergency, from the cash issuance stage to distribution to the public through bank branches and ATMs. In addition, the drill involved cooperation between the various parts of the currency system and with the Israel Police, which operated a situation room to provide a response at the national, district, and municipal levels.
The issues covered in the drill included:
• Dealing with the collapse of electrical and communications infrastructure, as well as with damage to cash center facilities, bank branches, and ATMs belonging to the banking system and private operators.
• The collapse of payment systems that use electricity and communications lines, and response to increased demand for cash throughout Israel through the operation of emergency branches, alternative branches, and mobile branches of the banking system.
• The police’s handling with aspects of public order, disorderly conduct and violent incidents, gatherings and movement of populations, and opening traffic arteries for the shipment of cash to areas hit by disaster.
• Dealing with the media and public information aspects of a national emergency, and responding to civilian and media enquiries in order to calm the public and reduce the sense of panic surrounding the demand for cash.
• Formulating a picture of the situation in the currency system for the Bank’s management and senior officials in the banking system, through the Currency Department’s situation room, in conjunction with additional elements at the Bank of Israel, in the currency system, at the National Emergency Authority, the Israel Police, and the Homefront Command.
Bank of Israel Director General Shulamit Geri said, “The Bank of Israel views the issue of business continuity and ensuring both its own and the entire banking system’s provision of essential services to the public during emergencies and disasters as supremely important. Ensuring the continuity of the supply of cash to the banks and the public during an emergency is critical in view of its contribution to the nation’s strength and the public’s sense of personal security. The preparedness of the participating agencies and the cooperation between them were noteworthy, and this complex drill enabled the Bank of Israel, the banking system as a whole, and all agencies involved in it to train, learn, and draw conclusions, and contributed greatly to their readiness for any emergency scenarios that may occur in the future.”
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