The Year in Review – A Look Back at United Hatzalah’s Biggest Stories from 5777

United Hatzalah has had an exceptionally eventful year, one which saw a new fleet of ambucycles dedicated, the first ever intensive care ambulance inaugurated, the organization launch two international mission and be recognized as a national rescue agency, the organization has achieved a myriad of goals which have been many years in the making.

United Hatzalah volunteers rescue people during the Haifa fires in November 2016

The national volunteer EMS organization United Hatzalah has grown by leaps and bounds and has graduated more than 500 new EMS personnel from courses all over the country. In an effort to recognize its new status and growth, the organization also rebranded and developed a new color scheme to help make it more recognizable in the eyes of the public.

Partnering with other EMS organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) and National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) has allowed the organization to build up its international brand and in the coming months United Hatzalah will begin training Gap Year Students in Israel who will be able to become certified EMTs both in Israel and in the United States.

The Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit grew exponentially from 30 volunteers to almost 200, with a goal of having 300 active volunteers by the end of the calendar year.

One of our EMTs teamed up with some of our U.S. staff and traveled some 1800 miles across the western United States to share the life-saving model with EMS teams there. While he was touring he was also saving lives, responding to EMS calls with local ambulance teams.

Thousands of people came to visit the national headquarters of United Hatzalah, which inaugurated its brand new, state-of-the-art dispatch center in Jerusalem which will be vital in helping the organization cut down on response time in the field.

Our volunteers saw some tough times and experienced the harshest side of living in Israel. Many of our volunteers responded to terror attacks that took place near their very homes and rushed out to help those in their community or those close by their location but they always helped form the goodness of their hearts even in tough times. More than one volunteer almost lost their home to the fires that ran rampant in Israel towards the end of November last year, but that didn’t stop them from helping others who were less fortunate.

The organization also reached out to segments of the population that are less fortunate, teaching the first ever EMS course given in sign language. It was instructed by the first ever deaf EMT volunteer in Israel.

These are just some of the highlights that the organization has undertaken since the last Jewish new year came around. All of this was done while the organization kept up their regular activities both small and large scale, with joint programs and MCI demonstrations with partnering organizations such as the IDF, the ISDEF, and many others. United Hatzalah also provided EMS support and coverage for the annual pilgrimage to Meron on the holiday of L’ag B’omer, which is the largest gathering of people in Israel every year.

Towards year’s end, the organization expanded its activities once more and now includes a new chapter in a new country. In coordination with the local teams, United Hatzalah opened a chapter in Uman in the Ukraine ahead of the holiday season so as to provide adequate medical coverage for the tens of thousands of people who travel there over the holidays.

Continuously innovating, and finding new ways to make Israel’s EMS response better, United Hatzalah is and will continue to be the most advanced and fastest volunteer EMS organization in Israel, and let’s not forget that all of the organization’s services are 100 percent free.

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First Rescue Organization in Israel to Implement Psychological Program Developed by Dr. Moshe Farchi – Father of PFA in Israel

 It has been almost two years since United Hatzalah established the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit to treat and stabilize people who suffer psychological and emotional stress during a traumatic event. The unit has had much success and has received many accolades for its work in the field. Over the past few months, the unit has been working together with Dr. Moshe Farchi, founder and director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program at Tel-Hai College.

Dr. Moshe Farchi poses with Miriam Ballin

Farchi is widely considered to be the founding father of the field of resiliency in the face of traumatic incidents and teaches a fully fledged three-year bachelor’s program and two-year Master’s Degree in Tel Chai college based on original and innovative models that he developed over the past few years. The focus of the course, and of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit is on reducing the immediate sense of helplessness and increasing the person’s ability to return to full effective function in less than two minutes of the traumatic event itself.

Both Farchi and United Hatzalah have implemented models that are aimed at training first responders, giving them the best professional skills for emergency mental health intervention.

Farchi trained the unit  responders to use  the SIX C’s model – a Psychological First Aid model that he developed on 2011. This model is recognized by the Ministry of Health as being the the Israeli national recommended model for psychological first aid.  “There is a desire to establish a standardized code of conduct for implementing Psychotrauma techniques in the field,” said Miriam Ballin, director of United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.


Elite members of the organization’s unit attended lectures by Farchi to learn the method and become certified teachers of the method enabling them to teach others in the unit. Upon completing the course the elite members of the unit will educate the other unit members regarding the SIX C’s procedural methodology and will eventually pass on the techniques to the rest of the organization as well.

United Hatzalah is the first EMS and Rescue organization in Israel to recognize the need for emotional and psychological first aid to be implemented at the scene of a traumatic incident. The training of United Hatzalah’s volunteers is the starting point of the national EMS training program in the SIX C’s model.


“We do hope that the SIX C’s model skills will contribute to  United Hatzalah ability to provide psychological and emotional first aid in the field, to minimize the feeling of helplessness, and to enable those suffering from the trauma to be able to return to their surroundings and a level of functionality within a few minutes after the incident,” Farchi said.

“The success of the unit will only be enhanced by having Dr. Farchi’s model incorporated into our existing system,” Ballin added. “This is another tool up our sleeve that will enable us to better help those who need our services and that is always something to strive towards.”

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IRC and UH Locate All Missing People in Jewish Communities in the Florida Keys

After four days of intensive work in the hard-hit Florida Keys, the commanding officer of the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah rescue teams announced that the team had helped to locate all missing people from the Jewish communities in the areas that were hit hardest by Hurricane Irma. “Following intensive efforts in Georgia, Naples and the Florida Keys, I am happy to announce that we have helped to locate and identify all of the members of the Jewish communities in those areas, who had lost contact with their loved ones or had been reported missing following the storm. Thankfully they are all doing well and are in good health,” said Shlomi Anavi the commanding officer of the rescue mission.

IRC and United Hatzalah volunteers together with local police force hand out food and water to Key West residents

Anavi further reported that since Wednesday the team had located, identified and treated some 35 people in the Florida Keys alone. “Over the past few days, we have located 35 members of the Jewish community who live in the Florida Keys whose relatives had reached out to us and reported them missing or had lost contact with them. Once people heard that we were operating in the region family and community members began to contact us directly or via social media outlets and asked for our help in locating these people.”

IRC and United Hatzalah volunteers help Key West residents.

In addition to locating missing persons, the team provided medical treatment for numerous injured people whom they found on the keys during their house to house searches. “We rescued one family who was trapped for a number of days in their house after all of the entrances and exits from the structure were sealed as a result of being damaged in the storm. We also aided the police and other rescue teams in handing out food and other aid to local residents who were not able to evacuate, many of whom had gone without clean water or food supplies for four days.”

IRC and United Hatzalah volunteers help Key West residents.

The team, which consisted of 10 people in total, has been operating in Georgia and Florida since last Sunday. “We have demonstrated that a small but highly trained group of rescue and medical responders from Israel can help and make a difference, not only in third world countries but even in countries as advanced and developed as the United States. The speed of our reaction time in arriving at areas of operation that we determined needed our help the most, caused us to be the first to arrive in many instances where people needed our help. Among these people were elderly, infirm, military veterans, sick and injured people, and many people who had no way of communicating with their loved ones due to the amount of destruction and the complete collapse of the electrical and communication grids,” Anavi added. “As our team heads back to Israel, we know that we return holding our heads high having completed a job well done.”

IRC and United Hatzalah volunteers help Key West residents.


IRC and United Hatzalah coordinate with national guard and military on the ground

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Israeli Team Assisting Florida Keys Residents Save Dozens on Tuesday, To Continue Rescue Operations in the Area For the Duration of Mission

On Tuesday, the Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah first response teams divided up into two groups with one headed to Key West, and the other headed to Naples.

Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah members help clean up debris in Naples

In Naples, the team walked into pandemonium. Houses were completely destroyed and people were without food, water and electricity. The team was warned by local officials that there were groups of looters who had no hesitation to shoot at first responders. Luckily, the group did not encounter any of these groups. They worked with community centers that were taking in displaced people who had stayed in the city during the hurricane but were forced to evacuate their homes due to a lack of power, water and food. They joined cleanup efforts and helped feed some 500 people at a local Chabad house after clearing the damage that the house had sustained during the hurricane. In one location, Psychotrauma responders helped calm a man who had been stuck in an elevator for some time while emergency crews worked to extricate him.

IRC and United Hatzalah team member coordinating efforts with local EMS and law enforcement

In the Florida Keys, the situation was far more dire. Key West and many of the surrounding Keys had been without water or electricity since Saturday, and in spite of an evacuation order for the area, many people had decided to find shelter in the safety of their own homes. The highway leading to the Keys had flooded and there was no way in or out for many people who were trapped there.

IRC and United Hatzalah team members coordinate efforts with Monroe County (Florida Keys) Fire and Rescue services.

“One such person, a military veteran named John, lives by himself in the city of Marathon in the central Keys,” said Tamar Citron, a veteran Search and Rescue volunteer from Israel who is part of the IRC and United Hatzalah team. “John suffers from a respiratory condition that requires him to receive oxygen on a regular basis. Once the hurricane hit, he like all the residents who were still on the Islands were unable to leave. He took shelter from the storm in his bathroom and has spent the last four days without water, electricity or telephone reception. When we got to him he barely had any drinking water or food left.”

IRC and United Hatzalah team members go house to house to provide aid to residents and evacuate those who need it most.

“You are the first people to come down here and offer aid,” John told the group of rescuers.

“We provided him with water, food and a lot of positivity. We notified local authority and EMS teams that he was here and made sure that they followed up to properly care for him. Unfortunately, John is not alone and there are many people stuck on the Keys right now without access to food, water, electricity or a method of communication. Yesterday we were able to help dozens of people in a similar situation. On Wednesday, our entire team is heading down to the Keys to help rescue more of these people.”

IRC and United Hatzalah team members in the field with local rescue services

Another man by the name of John Conrad was visiting the Keys when the hurricane struck. “I’m from Tennessee, and I’ve been trying to make my way back to Fort Lauderdale since Saturday. I got caught in the hurricane and we had no food or water and no transportation. I decided I was going to make my way back to the mainland somehow, but then you guys came and picked me up. You brought me about a hundred miles today, and that is something I will never forget.”

The team brought aid, medical assistance and much-needed water and food to residents of the Keys yesterday. They conducted house to house searches for people who stayed be and were stranded by Hurricane Irma.

Destruction in Key West

EMT first responder Gavy Friedson who is also a member of the IRC and United Hatzalah team spoke about the plan for the team’s continued efforts. “We are going back to the Keys again this morning and will be there all day. The entire area is without water, power, food, plumbing or cell service and most of the homes are severely damaged. It has been reported that more than a quarter of all the homes in the Keys have been destroyed and are unlivable. We are on the way to assist with search & rescue ops such as door-to-door searches for missing people or families and unfortunately, there is a long list of missing people. Additionally, we will be bringing food and water to distribute to those who choose to stay. Currently, the only way to communicate is via satellite phone and thankfully our team has some but the residents don’t. We will help as many people as we can and continue to do so for the length of our mission here.”

Psychotrauma volunteer calms man stuck in an elevator as rescue workers try to reach him.

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Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah Team to Assist in Hardest Hit Areas, Florida Keys and Naples

Ever since the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH) emergency aid team departed for Florida it has been one rescue related stop after another. First, their flight was diverted to Atlanta, as all airports in Florida were closed. Then the team stopped to assist some 1,500 Iram evacuees who had taken shelter at the Toco Hills synagogue and in the surrounding community. The team then departed, following a delay due to severe tornado warnings in Atlanta, for Savannah Georgia, where they assisted in caring for some 90 senior citizens who had taken shelter in a Care Facility that had lost power. The medical staff of the facility was unable to arrive due to flooding of the area, but the  Israeli team was undeterred.

IRC and UH team welcomed to Florida by U.S. first responders

Team members cared for the residents and guests, provided medical care and assessments for those who needed it, as well as psychological first aid, which was performed by members of the team Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.

Finally, on Monday evening, the team made it to Miami, Florida.The seasoned Israeli response team is comprised of members of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, United Hatzalah EMS volunteers, as well as members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, tasked with providing psychological and emotional stabilization to people who have suffered or are currently suffering a traumatic incident. They wasted no time set up an operational command center in Miami Beach where the IRC will be overseeing operations for the team members as they will now split up into two forces.

The 9 Israelis were joined by 2 U.S. based team members on Monday but have more recently been joined by their fellow Hatzolah volunteers from the chapters of Miami-Dade and Hatzalah of New York as well as other volunteer EMS responders from other parts of the U.S.

Miami IRC and UH Team Control and Operations Center during a quiet moment

“We have been coordinating together with local authorities, including the U.S. National Guard, the Coast Guard, local law enforcement agencies and local EMS services,” said team leader Shlomi Anavi. “Our team currently consists of approximately 50 people and we are heading to the hardest hit and hardest to reach locations currently in Florida, which are the Florida Keys and the city of Naples,” Anavi added. Anavi himself has served as part of multiple search and rescue mission throughout Israel and around the globe and is also a certified EMT and ambucycle driver with United Hatzalah.

IRC and UH team driving through Florida

“We are going to get to everyone who we can reach and give them whatever help we can offer, whether it is supplies, rescue efforts, EMS care, or psychological care and help. We came here with a goal and with a purpose and we will fulfill that goal,” he added.

IRC and UH team members prepare supplies and equipment before heading out to the Florida Keys and Naples

Members from each segment of the team, (search and rescue, EMS, psychotrauma) will be dispatched to both locations in order to provide the necessary aid to residents of both locations. “We are going where we are needed most, that is what we came for, and that is what we will do. As the saying goes, ‘come hell or high water.’”

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Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah Team Helps Evacuees in Atlanta and Savannah Before Heading to Florida

The Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH) Search and Rescue team that departed Israel on Saturday night landed in Atlanta early Sunday morning. The team stocked up on supplies to bring to battered Florida but was grounded due to severe tornado warnings that affected the area of Atlanta and southern Georgia all throughout Sunday. Not wanting to lose any precious time that could be spent helping Florida evacuees, the team headed to the Beth Jacob synagogue of Toco Hills where the congregation and synagogue itself were providing food and shelter for some 1,500 Irma evacuees.

The IRC and UH team outside of Beth Jacob synagogue in Atlanta Georgia where 1,500 evacuees were being cared for.

The IRC and UH team outside of Beth Jacob synagogue in Atlanta Georgia where 1,500 evacuees were being cared for.

The Orthodox Synagogue of Beth Jacob and its congregation took it upon themselves to house and feed the evacuees, who traveled north in order to escape the devastation of Hurricane Irma. As reported by Fox5 News in Atlanta, Rabbi Adam Stein of Beth Jacob Synagogue said, “This has been a very difficult time, but also a beautiful time; one in which communities have come together.”

Dr. Shula Wittenstein, a member of the IRC and UH team who is working as an EMS responder as well as a member of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response team, spoke about why the team felt it was important that they stop to help the evacuees in Atlanta. “We know what it’s like living in a country with a lot of terror, where we feel the impact every day. This is a different type of experience and challenge but it still involves a certain amount of tragedy and loss for many people. We want to reach out to these people in any way we can and help them immediately in the best and most professional way possible. It is pretty obvious that we have a big job to do here and I hope that we will be able to help as many people as we can. ” Dr. Wittenstein is a Psychologist who volunteers with United Hatzalah in Israel by providing psychological and emotional stabilization and first aid to people who need it in the immediate aftermath of traumatic situations.

IRC and UH team member standing with residents of the retirement facility in Savannah Georgia just after the power came back on Monday morning

IRC and UH team member standing with residents of the retirement facility in Savannah Georgia just after the power came back on Monday morning

“It’s amazing to see people from different backgrounds coming together to help out. For me, this is certainly coming out of my comfort zone. In Israel, we are used to helping individuals, even a lot of individuals in mass casualty incidents (MCI’s), but here we are seeing entire communities lose everything they had in one moment. It is a very difficult thing to go through,” said Wittenstein. Dr. Wittenstein has suffered a fire that destroyed her home, and she has also lived through the death of her brother. She said that what helped her get through both of those experiences were “people who expressed their caring from the heart.”

“There is nothing that helps as much as someone who comes along just to comfort you. I never underestimate any sort of outreach or intervention as long as it comes from the heart and is done in a professional, humble and respectful manner,” Wittenstein added.

IRC and UH volunteer Shula Wittenstein speaks to a resident of a retirement home in Savannah, Georgia.

IRC and UH volunteer Shula Wittenstein speaks to a resident of a retirement home in Savannah, Georgia.

She then described the goals of the mission. “Our goals are threefold. First, there is the search and rescue aspect of the mission. Then the medical team comes to treat anyone who needs immediate medical attention that hasn’t been found or seen to by local EMS teams. Then we have the Psychotrauma Unit, which is what I am a part of, whose volunteers help people to cope psychologically and emotionally with the loss and tragedy that they have experienced. We are a cohesive group working under a single operational commanding officer, and we are going to give everything we’ve got to do what United Hatzalah does best – help people in any way we can.”

After the team got to work assisting evacuees in the Synagogue and waited out the tornado warnings, they continued on to Savannah to spend the night On Monday morning the team assisted residents of a retirement facility that had lost power before continuing to make their way down to Florida.

The team consists of eight Israeli team members and another two members from the US. Of the Israeli contingent, four members are part of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, three are EMS trained members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit and one is a trained EMT.

Staff of a senior care center in Savannah thank United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response volunteers for helping out during the storm.

Staff of a senior care center in Savannah thank United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response volunteers for helping out during the storm.

The two US members, who are also certified EMTs, will be assisting residents and running team logistics on the ground. The organization has a US office which is dedicating almost all of its resources to providing logistical support and organizing community assistance.

The IRC and UH invite people from the community to get in touch with the teams should they feel they need assistance by contacting the U.S. based team members at


People interested in supporting the rescue efforts are invited to click here:

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Only 10% of Israelis Know How to Properly Administer CPR

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you had a serious medical emergency and collapsed on the street? Who would help you? Sadly, according to a new study that was carried out by the Smith Institute, only 10% of the Israeli population knows how to administer CPR effectively in an emergency situation. The study was undertaken at the behest of United Hatzalah ahead of World First Aid Day, which will be taking place around the globe on Saturday, September 9th, but will be observed in Israel on Sunday, September 10th. Rafi Smith and Olga Pni’el from the Smith Research Institute.

United Hatzalah EMTs pretend to be bystanders performing CPR during a training exercise

United Hatzalah EMTs pretend to be bystanders performing CPR during a training exercise

Another disturbing fact that came out of the study was that many Israelis believe that they know how to perform CPR effectively on a person who collapses, when in reality, the CPR  they would administer would not be effective, and possibly even have detrimental side effects. According to the study, some 30% believe that they know how to perform effective CPR, while another 70% admit that they do not know how to perform effective CPR or CPR at all. 64% of the people asked said that they studied how to perform CPR under one program or another, many of whom were last trained in first aid during their IDF service, while only 31% percent said that they never learned how to perform CPR. More than half of those who responded (58%) said that they wouldn’t attempt to do CPR on a person who collapsed in their vicinity and that they would instead try to find someone else who knew how to perform CPR.

When taking personal history into account, only 24% of the people asked who had come across a medical emergency that required CPR actually tried to perform CPR, whereas 29% responded and said they simply froze and were unable to do anything.

The study was aimed at discovering how well the general populace of Israel could respond to a medical emergency that they came across before emergency responders could arrive. It was conducted on the 22nd and 23rd of August by having some 700 Israelis fill out a questionnaire on the internet and represents a cross section of the general populace of the country above the age of 18 years old. The margin of error in the study is estimated at 3.7%/

President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said, “The success of first aid very much depends on how fast treatment can begin. This means that it is of vital importance for family members and passersby to begin first aid and CPR even before emergency services can arrive. We at United Hatzalah place incredible importance upon empowering and educating the community with regards to beginning CPR and providing first aid treatment even before our volunteers can arrive. It is for this reason that over the past number of years we have dedicated a large part of our resources to the Family First project which teaches people from the general public how to properly administer basic CPR as well as other first aid procedures. In commemorating World First Aid Day, we call upon the public to sign up for the courses, which are offered all across the country in a flexible four-hour session, and to take it upon themselves to know how to respond to a medical emergency should it arise in your vicinity. The people you will save will likely be your own family members, friends, co-workers and others closest to you.”

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Israeli Volunteer Doctor Talks About Her Experiences Helping People in Texas After Harvey

My name is Dr. Miriam Staub and I was one of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response team members that were sent to help evacuees in Houston by the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) and United Hatzalah (UH). While in the Houston area, we bore witness to one of the most extreme rain events in American history. It has been very hard to explain how much that made me feel small and vulnerable on a personal level. In addition to the devastation, I and the team that accompanied me bore witness that Houston residents, as well as many other volunteers from around the United States, showed up to help. The volunteers came in droves and were so many in number that a new Facebook page was created on which people could put their names down in the available time slots and then show up to help. This was done in order to avoid overcrowding shelters with volunteers who wanted to help. Both the volunteers who arrived as well as the evacuees were equally gracious in accepting and appreciating the help that the IRC and UH offered.


Dr. Miriam Staub standing together with two paramedics that she treated.

Dr. Miriam Staub standing together with two paramedics that she treated.

Hurricane Harvey hit everyone, people from all backgrounds and walks of life. People all had one thing in common, they needed help. Everyone that we came across warmly showed us their appreciation for our help and offered their sincerest thanks for our traveling all the way from Israel to help.


The fact that we, coming from Israel cared enough about these people as a nation and as an organization, to help them on site really helped us in connecting with them. Almost everyone we spoke to was ready to extend their hands and open their hearts to us, as we had come ready to open ours to them. The ones that had lost everything and needed to be guided. We helped guide them, mainly through the storm of their own emotional turmoil. The ones who were there working,  as EMS responders, police, relief personnel, and volunteers, had an even higher appreciation for what we were doing and frequently enough I was pleasantly surprised when they asked to take a picture with me.

This was especially true when our team spent the night awake at Jack Brooks Regional Airport near Beaumont. The airport had been converted into a temporary rescue headquarters that provided services for people in transport from flooded areas to long term shelters in Dallas and other locations. The pilots and flight paramedics sat around and waited and when their names were called, ran to treat, stabilize and transport patients. The conversations we had reassured them and brought about a sense of calmness and security in them that gave them something to hold on to. Something palpable that would remind them of the emotions they were feeling during this intense operation. When we spoke about who we are and what our organization does it was touching for me to see many of the professionals take out their phones and look up what ambucycles were.


Dr. Miriam Staub and Dr. Sharon Slater standing together with a paramedic that they treated

Dr. Miriam Staub and Dr. Sharon Slater standing together with a paramedic that they treated

Ironically, one of the paramedics we met was named Israel and in addition to taking a photo with us for a memento, he asked if he could buy one of the orange shirts that were iconic to our team. I gave him a UH keepsake to remember us by.


Bottom line, the magnitude of the devastation, the overwhelming response of the population ready to help and the fact that our team was there right when we needed to be and doing the work that we needed to do, made for a very rewarding experience for both us and the people we helped.

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IRC and United Hatzalah Sending Search and Rescue, EMS and Psychotrauma Teams To Florida In Response to Irma

On Thursday at 9:30 a.m. the directorship of the Israel Rescue Coalition (IRC) met in order to make plans for deployment to Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Members of Israel’s Search and Rescue Units, as well as medical and psychological first aid responders from United Hatzalah (UH), discussed plans for deployment and it was decided that the team will be deployed in Miami on Sunday morning.  

Members of United Hatzalah and the IRC train for disaster response scenarios in Israel

Members of United Hatzalah and the IRC train for disaster response scenarios in Israel

“Our teams have already begun assembling data and connecting with local teams on the ground in Florida as well as the Israeli consulate and getting regular updates and assessments from the ground,” said Dov Maisel, Director of International Operations for the IRC as well as Vice President of UH. “We spent the day gearing up so that we can make a quick departure on Saturday night in order to arrive in Florida on Sunday morning, hopefully before the full brunt of the storm hits.”


The team will consist of eight members leaving from Israel who will be joined in Florida by four people from the U.S. who will be running logistics and organizing community response. The IRC and UH invite people from the community to get in touch with the teams should they feel they need assistance by contacting the U.S. based team members at


Among the team members making preparations to depart are a team search and rescue veterans who are trained for rescues on land and by sea, diving teams, veteran EMS, and natural disaster personnel, as well as a group of Psychotrauma and Crisis Response unit members following the success of this unit’s deployment in Texas last week.  


“We’re trying to get out in front of this as much as possible. With resources and volunteers already heavily engaged in Texas, if Irma strikes hard in Florida, people on the ground there will need as much help as they can get, and we are not hesitating to deploy and assist in any way we can,” said Maisel.


This is the IRC’s fourth international mission in three years having had members dispatched to Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, to Haiti in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew, and most recently in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.


To donate to help the rescue efforts please click here:

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Helping Houston Evacuees 20 or 2,500 at a Time

As of Sunday afternoon, some 2,500 evacuees from Houston and the surrounding towns of Beaumont and Port Arthur had made their way to the mega-shelter set up for them at the Dallas Convention Center. At the center, all the services that evacuees would need for their long-term stay until they could return home were being provided. Police, fire and rescue services, social services, EMS and hospital teams and even day care services were all on hand at the center. In the mix of the servicemen and women and multitudes of volunteers who were located at the center to provide a helping hand, were three volunteers from the Israel Rescue Coalition and United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.

Einat Kauffman sits with evacuated child in Dallas shelter.

Einat Kauffman sits with evacuated child in Dallas shelter.

“Our team is working together with the Red Cross, the Psychological department of the hospital team that is here and with the children’s department. Today we focused primarily on working with the children who are here,” said Einat Kauffman, a Psychotherapist and Ph.D. candidate who specializes in treating grief and loss. “What really moved me was to see how fast the children understood what was happening around them. Whenever we asked them, where do you live, they responded by pointing at a bed nearby and saying “This is my bed, and over there is my parent’s bed.” It was quite sad on the one hand, but simply remarkable to see how quickly they adjusted on the other.”

Avi Tennenbaum speaking with an evacuee in Dallas

Avi Tennenbaum speaking with an evacuee in Dallas

The work of the team members involved getting the children to release some of their frustration and anxiety via play aimed at helping them to internalize their new situation. “We worked with children from age 2 until age 11 and had them create for us how their homes looked by using play-doh and by drawing on the floor with chalk. This helped them to express their feelings of loss and we were able to work from there. Some children spoke about their pets that were lost, others talked about being separated from other family members. Our goal was to get them to open up about what they were feeling in a non-threatening and positive manner in order to be able to begin processing their feelings.”

 IRC team member Josh Cerf helps people clean their house from debris in Houston

IRC team member Josh Cerf helps people clean their house from debris in Houston

Kauffman said that the teams were notified that another 1,000 people were expected at the mega-shelter in the coming day, many of whom would be suffering the same shock and disillusionment that those already present at the shelter were experiencing. “One of the big needs here is providing the people situation in the shelter with emotional and psychological support when they first arrive, and often that happens at night. The Fire and Rescue crews specifically asked for our help and the help of other organizations during the night shift as that is when volunteer teams ebb. We are working to put a plan in place to be able to help as many of the people here as we can and we are currently aiming to start a group for many of the adults who are here in order to help them process what is taking place around them, so far the logistics have been hard to nail down but we hope to have it worked out soon.”

Team Leader Miriam Ballin receives a hug from an evacuee in Dallas.

Team Leader Miriam Ballin receives a hug from an evacuee in Dallas.

Team leader Miriam Ballin added that the team was instrumental on both ends of the trip for evacuees. “We had people in Jack Brooks regional airport assisting with the process of preparing these people for departure to Dallas. We were appointed to become an official part of the preparation process for departure to other long term centers for the evacuees leaving that airport. Due to this appointment, we were able to provide an emotional assessment after medical and safety checks were performed on the evacuees. Then our team in Dallas had people ready to welcome and help the evacuees at the other side. It was a highly effective process one in which we were able to help many people.”


Reports so far have an estimate of a total of some 9,000 evacuees expected in the coming days at the shelter in Dallas. Members of the IRC and United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit will be on hand to help them deal with their loss, working with them one person at a time and in small groups.   


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