With more than a thousand rockets shot at Israel in the past few days, emergency medical service volunteers from United Hatzalah have been responding to medical emergencies day and night, and urgently need protective vests and helmets to protect them from rocket shrapnel as they respond to medical emergencies.
“Our volunteers, like the residents they help, are under fire in many parts of the country, particularly in the south and central regions, and they put their own lives at risk when going out to help others,” said Dov Maisel the Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah, whose car was damaged by a piece of shrapnel from a rocket that landed nearby while he was responding to an emergency in Ashkelon.
“While a lot of our volunteers have protective medical equipment from previous rounds of violence and rocket attacks from Gaza, many don’t, and this is in part mainly to the recent increase in the number of volunteers that we have living in the affected areas. We are in dire need of more protective vests and helmets to give our volunteers, who put their own lives on hold to save others, even during rocket attacks. We need to provide them with at least these basic supplies in order that they should have the basic level of protection,” Maisel added. “During the corona pandemic, every volunteer received personal protective equipment to help prevent them from contracting the disease while treating patients. Now they need physical protection of a different kind, and we need to provide that for them.”
United Hatzalah is Israel’s largest fully volunteer EMS service and is comprised of more than 6,000 EMTs, paramedics, and doctors who, upon receiving an emergency alert from the organization’s national dispatch and command center, drop whatever they are doing and rush out to save lives. The organization is solely supported by donations and does not receive funding from the government for its services, nor do they charge the patients for any treatment provided. “Everything we do is for the good of those we help,” said President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer. “We have never, and we will never charge a patient for providing emergency medical service, and that includes the times when we transport a patient to the hospital in one of our ambulances. This is why we need the assistance of our supporters to help us cover the cost of our medical equipment, vehicles, and in emergency situations like this one, protective vests and helmets for the volunteers so that they can be safe while helping others, and return home to their families when they are done.”
Thus far, the organization has managed to secure a matching grant from Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson, that will total up to $1 million in support of purchasing the much-needed safety equipment for all of the volunteers in the affected areas. The matching grant is dependent upon raising an additional million from other donors.
“We can’t leave our volunteers out there responding without the proper safety equipment at a time like this,” Beer explained. “On Tuesday, our volunteers in Givat Shmuel left their homes during an air raid siren and rushed to perform CPR on a man who collapsed while jogging in an open field. The level of bravery that this requires, especially for people who do not have adequate protective helmets and vests is difficult to comprehend. We need to protect them and give them the basic safety equipment so that they can, in turn, help all of us.”
Avi Amar, a United Hatzalah volunteer EMT and ambucyclist in Ashdod, who treated three people after a rocket struck a family’s home in the city on Tuesday said, “I don’t go anywhere without my protective vest and helmet nowadays. It is with me always. I have been in the near vicinity of a number of rocket strikes now and it is scary that my life may depend on the equipment that I am wearing at any given moment. We put our own lives on the line to help save the lives of others every day. It is important to know that we have the basic equipment necessary to save our own should we be nearby when a rocket lands.”
“The protective vests and helmets are specially designed and equipped to provide our volunteers with the maximum level of safety possible while still allowing them the freedom of movement required to treat a patient while wearing them,” explained Maisel. “In addition, the vests have specially designed storage spaces used to store essential medical equipment inside the vest. It costs us $800 dollars to equip one of our volunteers with a protective vest and helmet set. We are looking to equip 2,500 volunteers with new vests and helmets, and it is for that reason that we have initiated this matching campaign. Please help us protect the rescuers who save us all.”
To donate and help protect emergency medical first responders from United Hatzalah in the south and central regions of Israel please click here.