On Tuesday evening in the valley of Emek Ha’Arazim between Mevaseret and Jerusalem, United Hatzalah of Israel held a mass casualty incident (MCI) training exercise for its women’s unit. The simulated drill scenario, which was planned in July, was surprisingly similar to the bus accident that took place near Hurfeish just two weeks ago. The drill simulated a bus of high-school-aged girls falling off of a bridge on a Highway and involved more than 100 simulated patients and more than 60 first responders from the unit, all of whom are trained emergency medical service (EMS) personnel from the Unit ranging from EMTs to paramedics. 

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women’s MCI drill

“The primary task of the women’s unit is to provide a much-needed response to particularly delicate medical emergencies that are specific to women. However, the members of the unit, respond to all types of medical emergencies, regardless of type or the gender of the patient, when they are the closest responder available. Volunteers from our unit were present at the tragic mass casualty incident in Meron, Givat, Ze’ev, and Hurfeish, and unfortunately, have experience in dealing with these types of events. The point of this evening was to hone their skills and provide the volunteers with an extra level of training working together as a unit in order to provide a fast and expert response to the simulated patients,” said Gitty Beer, the founder of the Women’s Unit. 

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The incident commander, Avigail Beer, instructing volunteers where to goUnite

“Our unit, which includes members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, provides an extra element of care to an already traumatic situation. We’ve found that having a woman treat another woman makes the patient feel more comfortable, as the EMT understands the patient a little bit better than her male counterparts would,“ Beer added.

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women’s MCI drill

The Women’s Unit is comprised of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women, who serve their communities throughout Israel wherein an extra level of sensitivity is requested by the community.

The training exercise which included a significant amount of audio-visual technology and make-up to create a scenario that was as realistic as possible was observed by a number of Knesset members and community leaders including, May Golan (Likud), Michal Woldiger (Religious Zionism), and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. 

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An EMT interacting with a “patient”  at the women’s MCI drill

MK May Golan spoke about how excited she was to witness the training exercise. “I’m excited to be here to witness the women’s training drill that United Hatzalah held today. I am proud to see Israeli women from all over the country uniting to save lives. It is empowering, it is beautiful, and it is the actual essence of what Israel is all about. I want to congratulate these women for everything they do and support United Hatzalah to keep growing and support Israel so that it will be a better society and a better country for the health of everyone.”

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MK May Golan receives award from United Hatzalah President Eli Beer (left) and CEO Eli Pollack (right)

MK Michal Woldiger was also proud to see so many women from different sectors of Israeli society participate in the exercise and said: “Today’s training exercise focused on women and I very much respect the sensitivity shown among the unit overall, especially with regard to special sectors of the population such as the Muslim community and the Ultra-Orthodox community. The sensitivity of having women treat women who are having medical emergencies is very important especially when it comes to sensitive and traumatic issues. The training that I saw here today, of all these women who are learning how to better care for others is inspiring. Their dedication and preparedness are praiseworthy.” 

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Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit at women’s MCI drill

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum added: “I have a lot of mixed feelings about being here. It is somewhat traumatic to see what an actual scenario could look like. It is chaos and there is a lot of pain in the air. But I am very impressed with the innovative methods used to deal with these types of situations that United Hatzalah has developed. I am so inspired to see women who are Ultra-Orthodox, Muslim, Secular, all of the women in the country, working together in order to do the most important thing in the world, to save lives. So I am shocked, moved, inspired, and thankful to be here.”

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Muslim EMTs, helping Jewish “patients” during the MCI drill

The training drill was the fourth MCI drill that the organization has held this year. President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer explained why the organization is currently placing such an emphasis on these types of drills. “I have no doubt that the emphasis which United Hatzalah places upon constantly training our volunteers, especially MCI training, has resulted in lives being saved in the tragic instances that occurred in Meron, Givat Ze’ev, and Hurfeish. This is why we continue to conduct these training exercises. We want to give each and every one of our volunteers the opportunity to participate in these drills and experience the chaos that can occur during an MCI so that they can learn how to make order out of it on every operational level. During an MCI, the speed at which responders can make decisions, the correct decision, can save many lives. This is true for each individual responder as well as for the larger operational decisions made during the incident. We need to be ready because as history has shown us, sadly, the next MCI is not a question of if, but when.” 

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