Last week’s terror bombings in Jerusalem brought back painful memories of the Second Intifada to the Israeli public and diaspora Jewish communities. But for Israel’s first responders, Magen David Adom, the twin bomb attacks – which occurred just minutes apart in separate neighborhoods of the city – represent a challenge that the organization is now fully prepared to face.
Thanks to its years-long commitment to developing innovative EMS dispatch technology, Magen David Adom is able to shorten response times and provide the right medical support, both over the phone and in-person, when speed means the difference between life and death.
Impossible choices facing MDA dispatchers and EMS crews
MDA’s dedicated dispatchers do far more than answer calls and direct paramedics to the scene of accidents, terrorist attacks, and medical emergencies. As trained first responders themselves, they provide minute-by-minute support to people calling in with medical crises when every minute counts.
That might look like explaining how to perform CPR until an ambulance arrives, obtaining crucial information from callers in multiple casualty events, and determining the best way for emergency vehicles to reach a scene in light of traffic conditions.
But despite their incredible skills and commitment to saving lives, dispatchers simply couldn’t do it all. They often found themselves contending with multiple data points, from constantly changing traffic patterns to conflicting priorities. Mass casualty events, such as the missile bombardment of Haifa during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, proved to be especially challenging to manage.
As rockets rained down on residential neighborhoods, MDA dispatchers faced rapid-fire phone calls from Israelis reporting that people had been wounded in buildings struck by bombs. Gauging whether the calls were regarding the same sites or different locations of rocket strikes, as well as conducting accurate situational assessments so that the appropriate number of ambulances could be dispatched, was next to impossible. When multiple residents of an apartment building requested life-saving assistance to the same address, dispatchers struggled to understand if those calls necessitated multiple ambulances.
Realizing that a new approach was needed in order to ensure that life-saving services could reach Israelis when it mattered most, Magen David Adom turned to the Start-Up nation’s famous innovation and ingenuity for a solution.
The ‘Chain of Survival’ meets in-house technology
Software engineers, many of them Charedi (observant) Jewish women, worked tirelessly to develop a proprietary and exceptionally advanced, in-house system for Magen David Adom. The solution centralizes all incoming calls, regardless of their geographic origin, into a single platform.
It provides dispatchers with the location of everything from responder vehicles near the scene of a call, minimizing time gaps and strengthening the “Chain of Survival,” a term which describes the series of events that need to take place for lives to be saved.
In Magen David Adom’s Chain of Survival, time is of the absolute essence. Thanks to this system, dispatchers can answer calls within seconds, provide instructions on how to perform first aid, ensure ambulances are on the scene as quickly as possible, and determine the ideal route to the hospital for emergency vehicles.
Additionally, Magen David Adom rolled out technology that allows callers to live-stream the scene of a terrorist attack, car accident, or other multi-casualty incident to a dispatcher via their smart phone. The professional dispatcher can then make a better judgment call regarding the resources needed to respond at the scene.
“The dispatcher enters the category of need into the system: basic life-saving support, intensive care unit, or whatever else the situation calls for,” explains Uri Shacham, Magen David Adom’s Chief of Staff. “The system finds the nearest resource in the right category, and is able to both direct the caller to nearby help and send additional support to the location of the event.”
The technology goes beyond tracking the status and location of ambulances. Life-saving resources, such as public defibrillators, are also visible to the dispatcher on a map. “If someone collapses in the Shuk in Jerusalem, the dispatcher can tell the caller exactly where the nearest public defibrillator is,” Shacham says. The solution also empowers the dispatcher with the ability to remotely activate lights and sirens on the cabinet holding the defibrillator, “so that the caller can more easily see it, even from 20 meters away.”
Meanwhile, the system takes the guesswork out of locating the nearest ambulance by automatically displaying the available unit closest to the scene of the medical emergency, slashing response times and ensuring that people get to the hospital as swiftly as possible.
Interconnectivity and data centralization for life-saving results
MDA’s system is now integrated with that of Israel’s fire and police services, minimizing the time wasted by departments trying to exchange information and coordinate their arrival on a scene that requires an additional response beyond emergency medical services.
“By developing this interconnectivity feature, we actually minimize the time it takes for communication and each side to interpret information,” Shacham adds. “No matter what goes into the system, everybody, including Magen David Adom paramedics, the fire department, and the police all automatically have the same information, within seconds. Nobody has to call or alert or dispatch each other – everything is updated in real time with full transparency, via one single source of truth.”
On average, people calling Magen David Adom will wait less than 4 seconds for their call to be answered by a live dispatcher. Ambulances can reach the scene of medical crises in less than 5 minutes, even in the Golan Heights and Negev desert peripheral regions.
Magen David Adom has found a way to allocate its resources as robustly and efficiently as possible, but its operations are not funded by the Israeli government. To donate to Magen David Adom and help Israel’s first responders continue to save lives.