Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A peek into the mamad

All kidding about this week’s unprecedented home front drill aside, emergency preparedness is a serious matter. Hoping to raise consciousness, Mimi over at Israeli Kitchen is compiling a collection of relevant posts and encouraged me to write the following:

The way I see it, the drill is meant to inject a dose of hard, cold reality into our everyday state of denial.

For instance, under normal circumstances, one can blithely pretend that one’s guest room, children’s bedroom, study, playroom, family room, computer room, den, or office is no more and no less than its name implies.

A simple room.

But this drill should serve as a reminder that the room in question is really a mamad.

Mamad – ממ”ד – is an acronym for merchav mugan dirati – loosely, “residential protected space”.

According to Israeli building codes, every home built after the First Gulf War is required to have a so-called security or safe room with extra thick, reinforced steel and concrete walls; a specially-designed window with a steel cover; a steel-plated door; and several other features.

The idea is that the mamad is conveniently located inside one’s home, and one is permitted to consider it as normal living space.

Indeed, realtors and builders market the room as a regular bedroom. Thus, for example, what’s known as a 4-room apartment has three bedrooms, where one of them is the mamad.

Of course, initially, one is quite aware of the mamad’s unique status. After all, there are several technical decisions to be made, including:

  1. Should one put in an A/C duct? In fact, one isn’t permitted to do so, but for many families (ours included), A/C is a must. So, we put a duct just outside the mamad. Other people do install a duct inside the room, but they add a removable steel cover.
  2. Should one replace the steel-plated door with a lighter and more attractive door? A regular door makes the room more functional. (We left the heavy door.)
  3. And so on.

But once these choices have been made, most of us simply ignore or forget about the room’s alternate, more unpleasant purpose.

Hence, the drill forces us to confront this type of complacency.

Yet where does one draw the line between paranoia (ala those who planned for a Y2K-doomsday) and a reasonable level of preparedness?

Similarly, how does one find a balance between using the mamad as a room and turning it into a full-fledged bomb shelter?

Should the mamad be stuffed with gallons of water, stacks of canned goods, radios, flashlights, batteries, and other emergency supplies?

Or can one leave space for all the trappings of ordinary life?

Obviously, there are no easy answers to these questions, but ideally, we’ll all use this occasion to start thinking about some of these issues.

May we never experience anything more serious than a countrywide drill, and may we enjoy besurot tovot, yeshu’ot, and nechamot (good tidings, salvation, and consolation).


  1. Thanks for writing this post, Mrs. S.

    I was alone with three kids during the Gulf War. What I can say from that experience was that having water, food, and a "pish bucket" in the sealed room saved our collective sanity.

  2. I have nothing in the mamad. It's my daughter's bedroom. But of late I'm realizing that I had better put some basics in it, and prepare a rubber maid container that can be put in the closet next to her room and quickly dragged in in an emergency.

  3. I think I would stock basics in the manad too, just in case.

  4. Yaffa - Thanks for commenting.

    Mimi - Too bad blogs didn't exist back then, or else you could've shared your experiences directly from your sealed room...

    Baila and Ilana-Davita - We have some emergency gear in our mamad, including a few liters of water and a flashlight or two. Oh, and most importantly, the children's computer...

  5. "the children's computer..."

    So we can read the blog!!!

  6. At the beginning of the second gulf war, Israelis were instructed to open our gas masks and try them on.

    At that time, I bought all sorts of interesting gadgets. For example, we got a manual pump/dispenser device that fits on top of a mei eden/neviot large plastic water container. This way, we have an easy (non electric) method of getting water, without needing the whole "mitkan" in the MaMad.

    btw - there's also a MaMaK -- merchav mugan komati for apt. and commerical multi story buildings.

  7. Jameel - At the beginning of the second gulf war, Israelis were instructed to open our gas masks and try them on./
    Yup. And then we were supposed to walk around with our masks for the duration. As it so happened, we spent a Shabbat in Yerushalayim for a family simchah (Hi, SPYYMZ!), and we had to find room in the car and then in our hotel room for all the masks...


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