If you’re a reader of The Jewish Link from the tri-state area, you are likely quite familiar with the lifesaving work and exceptional responsiveness of Hatzalah.
In the last few years, residents of and visitors to the broader region have been the beneficiaries of an expanded umbrella of emergency medical support provided by Hatzalah Statewide (see this July 2019 report in the Jewish Link: https://tinyurl.com/c2sev26h).
After months of preparation, Hatzalah Statewide has taken their services to an extraordinary new level and now offers worldwide emergency medical support.
This broad new service was started after Hatzalah Statewide founders, Dr. Nathan Zemel and Simcha Shain, noticed that Hatzalah
Statewide was periodically getting calls from people in places way outside their coverage area, including Las Vegas and even Paris and Switzerland. Though the two men are already quite busy—Zemel is a medical doctor in private practice in Newark, New Jersey and founder of Hatzalah of Essex County, Shain is a flight paramedic based in Lakewood and CEO of Paraflight—they saw a growing need and got to work to address it.
They reached out to Hatzalah chapters on six continents to determine their service areas and to ask for ideas on how to expand their collective coverage. Zemel described the outreach effort as “very time intensive,” with Shain adding that the results were “a real game changer.”
Zemel and Shain learned about an evolving effort by the Hatzalah of Melbourne, Australia to receive and respond to calls outside their service area, using an app, and decided to expand on this paradigm. That Hatzalah chapter referred the two men to a programmer in Beit Shemesh, who worked with them to build a platform that can respond to calls from anywhere in the world and address them, using their large and growing network of responders as their “boots on the ground.”
The resulting new app, Hatzalah Global Assist, available for Android and Apple devices via their App Stores, asks users to tap one green button with bright yellow text to tell the operator their location. The app also indicates if there is an existing Hatzalah chapter in the user’s area and, if there is, offers the user another green and yellow text button to “Tap to call.” The app pinpoints the caller’s location with information generated by Google Maps, including a street map and GPS coordinates of their latitude and longitude.
Drawing on the what3words.com website, Hatzalah Global Assist offers one more location identifier—a unique three-word identifier for each three-meter square on Google Maps, generated in real time; at the time I wrote this story, my house in Middlesex County, New Jersey was located in the map square assigned the words verse.recur.valleys.
The app and is available free of charge to all Jewish community members and is monitored by a team of eight dispatchers, including Shain, 24/7. Zemel was quick to add that Hatzalah Global Assist does not just handle emergencies but also any imminent need of a medical nature. He shared an example of a traveler going from Brooklyn to Peru, who realizes when he arrives that he left his insulin at home. Using a network of thousands, Hatzalah Global Assist will work to secure a local prescription of insulin for that traveler.
Zemel and Shain describe the new Hatzalah Global Assist service as “Hatzalah Statewide’s gift to klal Yisrael,” and invite community members to download the new app now. They are already planning for upgrades to the app in future releases and intend to launch a recruitment drive in the months ahead, to broaden the ranks of people who can respond to Hatzalah Global Assist calls.
Leiby Rosner, a dispatch coordinator for Hatzalah of Essex County who lives in Blooming Grove, New York, was enlisted by Zemel to field-test the new app. He tried it out over a one-hour 20-minute drive into New Jersey and was excited to see that the app immediately refreshed when he drove from the service area of Rockland County Hatzolah to the area of Bergen County Hatzalah, then to the area of Passaic County Hatzalah. He reported that he later told Zemel, “Wow, I’m very impressed with this app.” He shared that he believes “this app will help a lot of yidden to get a rescue in a time of need.”
Bentzy Friedman of Lakewood, coordinator with Hatzalah of Essex County and a coordinator with Hatzalah Statewide, also field-tested the new Hatzalah Global Assist app and found it very user friendly. “The new Hatzalah global assist app is an innovative way to call Hatzalah in an emergency where you are unsure of your present location,” he said. “The app will even assist you in a scenario where you are aware of your location, but are unaware if there is a local Hatzalah that services the area or their phone number.”
Please use the App Store on your mobile device to download Hatzalah Global Assist now. If someone has any questions or difficulties in using the app, they can email Hatzalah Statewide at [email protected].
By Harry Glazer