A terrorist opened fire on a bus carrying civilians, striking the driver. Fifty people are injured, 50 of them critically, when the bus collides with other vehicles.
In minutes, women from various backgrounds from around Israel arrive on the scene in specially outfitted motorbikes, ambulances, and private vehicles while lights and sirens are flashing.
They are all wearing protective vests and helmets.
Being the first to arrive, they immediately assess the injured while navigating the fire and smoke. They classify, stabilize, and plan for transportation to hospitals.
Although the possibility of such an attack exists, United Hatzalah of Israel staged a mock “mass casualty incident” drill in Jerusalem’s Janana Park on April 28, just days after the attack.
Raphael Poch, United Hatzalah International’s spokesman, and manager of digital media, who is also an emergency medical technician, said that his organization is the only Hatzalah in the world to include women on the EMT squad.
In its program, Hatzalah started including women in 2006. Approximately 1,300 of its 6,500 current volunteers are women or 20%.
Hatzalah takes pride in being the most significant autonomous, nonprofit, 100% volunteer organization of its kind and claims to offer the nation’s quickest, most comprehensive emergency first-aid services.
It does not receive money from the government.
Poch claims that Hatzalah volunteers arrive between 90 seconds and three minutes after a call, as opposed to an ambulance’s response time, which is between seven and 25 minutes on a good day.
Hatzalah volunteers transfer the patient to the ambulance’s EMTs for hospital transport as soon as it arrives. Hatzalah volunteers to remain in the ambulance to assist if no team is inside.
The volunteers of Hatzalah use specialized GPS technology, adapted motorbikes (also known as “ambucycles”), and e-bikes, and are available around the clock, even on Shabbat and holidays.
Attorney Rachel Holzer, a native of Cleveland, worked as an EMT in the 1990s. She and her family moved to Bet Shemesh, Israel, from Miami over eight years ago, and she joined Hatzalah when it started offering EMT classes for women.
Only two women were present before our course, and they were initially unable to join the neighborhood branch, Holzer told JNS.
“It became open to other ladies after our course. The number of female volunteer EMTs at United Hatzalah Beit Shemesh has increased to over 40.
Holzer has delivered one baby in a car, and there is a demand for female EMTs to assist women who give birth while traveling to the hospital.
Plans for Beit Shemesh’s first hospital were announced several years ago. She also recalls a call from a ritual bath called a mikvah where a woman had sliced her leg.
They phoned Hatzalah because there was blood all over the place. I answered the phone,” she said. “When a female EMT showed up at the mikvah that evening, everyone was relieved.”
Holzer took part in the exercise with her two daughters. One of them is a volunteer for Hatzalah and an EMR, while the other took on the role of a “victim,” complete with makeup to represent actual wounds. She’s doing it for the third time, and Holzer said she loves it.
Holzer assisted in securing 100 “victims” the previous year, but this time, since it was just for women and girls, she only needed to assist in securing 40. According to Poch, students from Bet Shemesh schools enjoy participating.
Eli Beer, the nonprofit’s founder, and president, said in a release that Hatzalah has been working to prepare all of its volunteers to handle mass casualty situations in light of the recent uptick in terrorist attacks.
A helicopter owned by Hatzalah was also used in the exercise. One of the seriously “injured” participants was flown to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem by a pilot, where medical personnel trained to take in a “patient” from a medevac helicopter.
Black tags were worn by simulation victims who had no pulse or were not breathing. Volunteers clustered the extremely seriously “injured” together and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation masks to other volunteers to show how they would handle the latter.
Dr. Joel and Adele Sandberg, the parents of Sheryl Sandberg, a former executive at Facebook and Meta who helped start Hatzalah’s women’s project, attended the drill. Many people who gave Hatzalah 75 e-bikes and 75 ambucycles to commemorate Israel’s 75th anniversary were also in attendance.
Hatzalah wants to double the number of female volunteers within the next five years.