On Thursday evening the Beit Shemesh chapter of Israel’s national volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) organization United Hatzalah held a meeting for all of its volunteer responders in the city. The gathering was held to check and upgrade EMS equipment, celebrate the recent activity and hard work of the volunteers, begin the yearly continuing education program and distribute 11 new defibrillators to volunteers who did not yet possess one as part of their equipment.

Beit Shemesh volutneers receive new defibrillators to use to save lives in each of their neighborhoods.
Beit Shemesh volunteers receive new defibrillators to use to save lives in each of their neighborhoods.

Chief Paramedic of the organization, Avi Marcus, who is in charge of the continuing education program across the country attended, inspected the volunteers’ equipment, and oversaw the distribution of the new defibrillators. “Beit Shemesh is a unique city with regards to the EMS challenges that it possesses. It is a relatively large city that sits across a number of very dangerous highways, and the closest hospital to the city is approximately 30 minutes away. These characteristics highlight the need for the city to have a top level EMS response team. On the day we had the meeting there was a serious car accident that took place between a minibus and a private car that injured 10 people,” Marcus added.

Chief Paramedic Avi Marcus speaks to the gathered volunteers
Chief Paramedic Avi Marcus speaks to the gathered volunteers

Marcus explained that the defibrillators were distributed to volunteers living in different neighborhoods within the city in order to ensure that proper EMS response would be able to answer any need that arises. “We are working under the assumption that the more defibrillators we have in the field, the more lives we will be able to save. Often the thing that makes the biggest difference in saving a person who has suffered a cardiac arrest is an electric shock given by a defibrillator. That is why we are trying to make sure that there are ample defibrillators in every neighborhood so that our responders can provide those shocks when necessary.” Marcus concluded by stating that the organization is putting an emphasis on proper CPR techniques this year and that the distribution of the defibrillators is therefore very timely. “This year we are putting an emphasis in our continuing education program on performing CPR on children. The distribution of defibrillators to our volunteers ties directly into that, and we are happy to be able to provide more protection for the residents of this city.”    

Continuing those sentiments, David Leff, United Hatzalah Beit Shemesh chapter head and spokesperson, said during the event that “In the field of EMS work, one never knows what will happen. You just have to expect the unexpected.” Leff brought an example from last week when 6 people were lightly injured on Nachal Uria street in the neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh when a cement mixer sprayed cement and pebbles on a group of pedestrians.

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“When I arrived at the scene, we found and treated a group of women and children who were suffering from cement which had spilled on them from a mixing truck. Passersby reported that it was unclear why, but cement mixed with small stones sprayed on them from a pipe at the entrance to an apartment building. The cement was being used in construction that was taking place on one of the balconies of the building. This situation happened out-of-the-blue and took the pedestrians completely by surprise. No one prepares for accidents such as these to occur – they simply do. When they happen, we need to be as prepared as we can which is why we are upgrading all of our equipment and giving out defibrillators to as many volunteer first responders in the city as we can. That is why we continually train and retrain on an ongoing basis so that our volunteers will know how to respond to any situation that arises.”

President and Founder of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer, added that “It is our plan to distribute a defibrillator to each and every one of the 3,000 volunteers that we have across Israel. To that end, we purchased more than 1,200 defibrillators over the past few months and we will be making another large purchase of a few hundred more in the coming months as well. It is the goal of our organization to make sure that no one who suffers a cardiac incident and can be saved by the intervention of a defibrillator, will die due to lack of proper equipment arriving in time to assist them. We are continuously working to diminish our response times, and to provide as many defibrillators to our volunteers as we can so that no one dies if it is at all preventable.”