June 17, 2024
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United Hatzalah of Israel Founder Eli Beer Meets with Bergen Leaders

Hackensack—In Israel, United Hatzalah’s emergency response time is under three minutes. “But our goal for rapid response to emergencies is 90 seconds,” said Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah of Israel. Beer was in Bergen County last week to share the lifesaving strategies that United Hatzalah has employed to get to the scene of emergencies faster, in order to save lives. In addition to meeting with Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, Beer met with Bergen County EMS students and staff, toured the county’s EMS facilities in Paramus, and attended fundraising events for the non-profit organization in Manhattan.

“Bergen County has a huge amount of our supporters. Many people who live here told me I should come to the area and talk to them about it. Maybe they can do the same thing here that we do in Israel,” Beer told JLBC.

“It’s a simple concept that could be implemented easily,” Beer told Donovan.

Beer’s concept is a GPS-based smartphone app called NowForce, combined with his 2,300 volunteers who ride rapid-response equipped motor scooters called ‘ambucycles,’ as they go about the course of their lives all day, every day. When someone uses the country’s 911 system, the app immediately pings the five closest United Hatzalah volunteers, who hop on their scooters, and rush to the emergency. By doing this, they have halved average EMT response times to less than three minutes. Average response time in Bergen County is six minutes, which is the national average.

While Donovan appeared enthusiastic as she looked at the ambucycle Beer brought with him, and encouraged that he meet with other emergency service personnel in the county, she did not share her intentions or provide any comment about Bergen County’s future involvement with United Hatzalah’s concept.

Last year, United Hatzalah treated 207,000 patients across Israel, 42,000 with life-threatening injuries. They charge no fee. Beer founded United Hatzalah in 1998, after working as an EMT since the age of 15. Each ambucycle costs $26,000, which are paid for in Israel by donations. More are desired and needed. “We have a waiting list of [certified EMT] volunteers who could be using them,” Beer said.

Beer recently gave a TED Talk at TEDMED, an event where world leaders in medicine share high-impact knowledge. Beer explained how he got into the field of emergency response. As a child of six, while living in a small neighborhood in Jerusalem, he walked by a bus stop on his way home from school on a Friday afternoon. “I saw the bus blow up in front of my eyes. The bus was on fire, and many people were hurt and killed,” he said. He could not do anything and was unable to help anyone.

When Beer was 15, he was certified as an EMT, and worked on an ambulance for two years, but with Israel’s notorious traffic and the distance to cover, “the ambulance always got there too late,” he said. He once arrived 20 minutes after a 911 call had been made about a child who was choking, and a doctor who lived just a block away came in and declared the child dead. “He died for nothing. If that doctor had known, he would have run over and saved him,” Beer said.

Thus began Beer’s quest for improvement to the current situation. He started with a group of 15 friends, all EMTs, who decided to protect their neighborhood. He was laughed at when, at age 17, he asked the ambulance director to alert them by beeper if any emergencies happened in the neighborhood. Beer, then on his own initiative, purchased police scanners and the boys took turns listening. Beer was listening soon after when he heard that, a block away, a 70-year-old man was hurt by a car. When he arrived, the man was injured, bleeding profusely from the neck, and told Beer that he was taking the blood-thinning medication Coumadin.

“I didn’t have any supplies with me, but I knew I had to stop the bleeding or else he would die. I took my kippah and applied it to his neck tightly. When the ambulance arrived 15 minutes later, I turned over to them a man who was alive.”

After the instant hit of his Ted Talk, Beer’s idea began to get worldwide publicity. He got requests from countries around the world, “who wanted to hear about our lifesaving innovations in Israel,” Beer told JLBC. Components of the system have now been put into effect in several countries, and are under consideration in numerous other American cities.

“As a society in Israel, we want to be helping the world to learn from our good ideas, and we came up with probably one of the simplest inventions to save lives every single day, hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, from dangers from so many different things: Heart attacks, choking, anything you can imagine,” he said.

“Our goal is only to make things better for fast response. We are not focusing on fighting diseases, or finding better medication. It’s just that millions of people around the world die while waiting for the ambulance,” he said.

“I came up with a technology that can help with that and I want to share it.” The technology from NowForce they could get “tomorrow,” Beer told Donovan.

“I think people have to think outside the box. Ambulances are the 1980s. They are important for transporting the patient. I’m not saying stop using them. But to save them? You need to move faster. All we think about at United Hatzalah is how to get there in 90 seconds. Ambulances cannot get there in that time. But we can,” he said.

“In many emergencies, waiting five or six minutes [is the difference between life and death].You can’t reverse it. If someone is choking, a neighbor could save him if he knew about it. Finding out after the ambulance arrives is too late. Our job is getting there,” Beer said.

Those who want to learn more about United Hatzalah are invited to visit the website at http://www.israelrescue.org.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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