On Monday, Israel opened the doors of its new national blood bank facility—with underground rooms, thick concrete walls, and tons of steel built to protect one of Israel’s most “strategic assets”—the blood supply—from rockets, terrorists, chemical and biological weapons, earthquakes and even cyberterrorism.
The facility cost $135 million to build and required 11,000 tons of steel, and was funded by American Friends of Magen David Adom (our emergency and disaster response services).
In Israel, while most days are peaceful and without incident, the reality is that war or terrorism, or even a catastrophic earthquake (the biggest earthquake fault line in the world runs right through the middle of the nation) can happen, and in these emergencies, blood can make the difference between life and death.
“We have built something that’s a new standard in protecting blood, which is important as it’s a strategic asset,” said Moshe Noyovich, the engineer on the construction project and a senior official with American Friends of Magen David Adom. “We visited many blood banks around the world when planning and found that there is simply no other country with a facility like this, with such a high level of protection for the national blood supply.”
The complex is in Ramla, in the center part of Israel. It will become fully operational by summer and will replace an older, smaller facility in Ramat Gan, which was built in the 1980s. Israel President Isaac Herzog and other officials attended the ceremonial opening of the facility. The new center will take in and store almost all of the country’s blood donations for civilians and the military.
The current, older facility is not fortified, and if rockets are flying from the north or the south, everyone has to stop what they are doing and move the blood supply and themselves into a bomb shelter.
“The current facility is aboveground, not secured against rockets, which can reach the facility from both north and south, and not protected against earthquakes and other threats,” Prof. Eilat Shinar, head of blood services at Magen David Adom, said.
The new multi-million-dollar facility has multiple layers of protection. It was built with non-combustible steel and concrete. Three floors are aboveground, and each has its own bomb shelter. There are also three floors below ground. These underground levels have extra-thick walls, airlocks, blast doors, and special shielding to protect occupants from biological or chemical attacks.
When you walk in, the ground floor has an auditorium, a dining area, a training facility, and a place for people to donate blood. Upstairs, there is a place where human milk is collected and stored for premature or sick infants and more training facilities.
Underground, there are blood bank laboratories, a secure area for the fleet of ambulances that transport blood, a research lab, and more. And at the deepest level, there is the Blood Storage Vault, a safe room built to be secure against even severe missile strikes. The underground levels have special air-filtration systems to protect against biological or chemical attacks. And every vital system has a backup in place.
“Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood, yet we know that thanks to this maximum-security facility, Israel’s national emergency medical service can preserve life in the hardest of conditions and for decades to come,” said Catherine Reed, CEO of American Friends of Magen David Adom.
Photo credit: American Friends of Magen David Adom