July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Englewood Hatzalah: A Look Inside the Launch

Englewood resident Josh Hartman and Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes are passionate about Chevra Hatzalah, having served their communities in Manhattan as emergency responders for many years. Hartman is leading a new squad called Bergen Hatzalah—Englewood Division, which seeks to provide stabilizing emergency services to residents of Englewood. “Hatzalah is an incredible organization that harnesses a first-response model, which is different from the ambulance-based systems currently in most places around the world, including places like Englewood and Bergen County in general,” he told The Jewish Link. “Many members of our Englewood community and indeed the wider Bergen County have lived at some point in communities with a strong Hatzalah presence.”

“Our goal is to get two or three trained and equipped volunteer first responders—in our case we plan to focus on EMTs and physician responders—to a patient’s side to initiate care while the ambulance is being dispatched and responding. The model allows for care to be initiated within moments of the incident,” Hartman told The Jewish Link.

For clarity, Hartman explained that the terms EMT and paramedic are not interchangeable. “It is crucial that the term used is EMT and not paramedic, as Bergen Hatzalah will not be providing paramedic services, as these services are relegated to hospital-based EMS in the state of New Jersey. In addition to EMT first responders, Bergen Hatzalah will also include physician first responders, another unique component of the Hatzalah response model.”

Hartman explained that Hatzalah in general, including Bergen Hatzalah, will serve anyone who calls its dispatch hotline, regardless of their religious beliefs and other demographics. “We will publish our phone number once we are staffed and equipped in a manner that ensures an appropriate response to the caller,” he said.

Hartman noted that Chevra Hatzalah (New York City), based just under five minutes from Englewood, is actually the largest volunteer ambulance service in the United States. “It is also the only non-governmental entity in the United States that has been given the rights to obtain blocked caller ID information, similar to the capabilities of some 911 dispatch centers.

“The organization, which both Michael and I are proud to continue volunteering with, has more than 1,100 EMTs and 200 paramedics, and almost 100 ambulances throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Chevra Hatzalah takes about 75,000 emergency calls per year, which means that on average there are more than eight calls per hour or one call every seven minutes,” Hartman explained.

Wildes, who currently serves as the mayor of Englewood, has been a Hatzalah member for close to three decades, during which he has responded to thousands of calls as an EMT both in Manhattan and his native Queens. During that time he’s treated hundreds of patients of all races, religions and demographics when they’ve turned to Hatzalah for help. His experience with the comradery of Hatzalah and its patient-focused ethos has informed his decision to welcome Hatzalah into Englewood. He hopes that others will also see Bergen Hatzalah for the strong organization it is.

Hartman began volunteering with Hatzalah after getting married and moving to the Upper West Side in 1996. In New York City, he practices as an Advanced Life Support (ALS)-level paramedic and has provided clinical leadership, guidance and advanced care with Hatzalah for over 20 years. During this time, he has treated thousands of patients of all races, religions and demographics in their most dire times. He’s also played a leadership role in helping to create and revise New York Hatzalah’s clinical guidelines, quality assurance and training processes for both paramedics and EMTs.

Bergen Hatzalah—Englewood Division is being established as a first-response service, something that completely differentiates it from EVAC and every volunteer or professional EMS agency in the area. Bergen Hatzalah plans on raising funds for the infrastructure, training and equipment needed to assure that their members are ready and able to respond to medical emergencies 24/7/365 from the closest proximity. “That means the person next to you in shul, a neighbor two blocks away, or the proprietor of a local business who will drop everything to come help you in the event of a medical emergency. They will be arriving with the training, certification, and medical equipment needed to stabilize and treat you until the ambulance’s arrival,” said Hartman. The medical equipment will be “commensurate with the equipment found on an ambulance (other than transport capabilities), allowing them to initiate care within a couple of minutes of the caller finishing to dial our hotline number.”

Since EVAC and the local hospital share responsibility for ambulance transports in Englewood, Hartman’s Bergen Hatzalah plans to complement their efforts for those patients who wish to call Hatzalah. “To be clear, 911 services in the city of Englewood will not be impacted at all by the launch of Bergen Hatzalah. All callers will continue to get the appropriate level of response and care from whichever service/s the 911 dispatcher deems best serves them at the time they call,” he said.

“Hatzalah’s formation is completely independent of EVAC but will be working closely and collaboratively with EVAC and all other EMS agencies we encounter as we launch and expand operations. We have the highest level of respect for all EMS providers without regard for what uniform they wear or what is written on the side of their vehicles. These are people who have dedicated their lives, as we have, to the highest cause—that of saving lives. Anyone who makes accusations and/or claims regarding EVAC or any other EMS provider or organization is doing so at their own reputational peril should they do so without knowledge of the facts,” Hartman said.

Hartman said the division is currently seeking a new cadre of Hatzalah members. “We’re looking to build a strong team of dedicated volunteers who are currently EMTs and/or physicians or might be interested and committed to taking an EMT course and complete a requisite clinical training program that we will require after they complete their EMT course, but before they are responding directly to calls.”

“We will also need to raise the necessary funds to properly equip every volunteer with the appropriate equipment including, for example, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), first aid equipment, communication equipment and more. We look forward to updating Jewish Link readers once we launch the fundraising efforts for these vital tools,” said Hartman.

To join or for more information, please email [email protected].

By Elizabeth Kratz 

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