In what is being touted as the first program of its kind in the nation, Jersey City in conjunction with Jersey City Medical Center-Barnabas Health introduced its first class of volunteer emergency responders at a ceremony on July 30.
To reduce response time to victims, Jersey City has teamed up with the medical center and United Hatzalah, an Israeli community-based emergency care program. The system would alert medically-trained volunteers near an emergency situation to respond first and apply what could be life-saving measures until professional help arrives.
Mayor Steven Fulop said the call for volunteers earlier this year got an overwhelming response. More than 300 people applied for the first class of about 60 people. Their training begins in September.
Called Community Based Emergency Care (CBEC), the program models a system started in Israel in 2006. It is similar to a smaller local program currently run through JCMC for CPR that notifies specially-trained volunteers to respond if they are near an emergency.
“The response from the community has been overwhelming and we see this as an innovative way to use technology to bridge the gap in response times and save lives,” Fulop said. “We are excited to get this program off the ground and believe it can be a model for other communities across the country. When every second matters, we want to deliver the fastest, best medical service to our residents.”
“The response from the community has been overwhelming.” – Mayor Steven Fulop
Started in Israel
The United Hatzalah program in Israel currently fields more than 2,500 trained volunteers who respond to more than 200,000 emergency calls annually. As in Israel, Jersey City’s program aims to include volunteers from all sectors of the city’s diverse community.
“United Hatzalah saves, on average, over 100 lives a day in Israel,” said Mark Gerson, a New York-based entrepreneur and philanthropic leader of United Hatzalah and United Rescue. “By bringing this model to Jersey City through United Rescue, Mayor Steve Fulop and the remarkable emergency response professionals at the Jersey City Medical Center will be able to have proportionately the same results in Jersey City and get treatment to people in the city in their most vulnerable moments.”
The Jersey City volunteers come from all neighborhoods of the city. They include doctors, business professionals, students, and retired individuals, amongst others. The first class of 60 volunteers, all of whom either live or work or attend school in the city, will receive lifesaving medical equipment once they complete their comprehensive, 60-hour course in medical first response.
Class sizes will be kept small so students receive individualized attention. They will be taught by JCMC EMTs.
The program, funded by private donors the city hasn’t named, involves no cost to the city. It could result in response times of under two minutes, even in traffic-congested areas or on the upper floors of modern hi-rise apartment buildings.
While volunteers would not have the extensive training of EMTs, they would have a level of training similar to Jersey City Fire Department first responders, and would know how to administer oxygen and use a defibrillator.
Training will include how to effectively obtain vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respirations, lung sounds) and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of chest pain and cardiac emergencies. They would obtain CPR/AED certification at the professional level; learn how to perform oxygen administration and have awareness of respiratory emergencies (asthma, COPD, emphysema); and be trained in how to respond to large-scale incidents and mass casualty emergencies that require the cooperation of multiple agencies.
When residents call 911, a dispatcher will immediately deploy both an ambulance and a community-based emergency responder. The United Rescue technology uses a GPS-enabled mobile app to track and deploy the nearest volunteer responders who are able to quickly navigate through dense urban areas on ambucycles or on foot, whichever is fastest.
For example, an office worker could be suffering from a heart attack, while someone who could save his life might be, unaware, in a meeting a floor below.
The goal of the program is to ensure that there is always a cadre of trained and equipped volunteers who can be instantly located and immediately dispatched from the 911 operator to any scene in the city.
A CBEC volunteer would begin treatment to stabilize a patient’s condition until the JCMC EMTs arrive on the scene. The national standard for ambulance response time is eight minutes and 59 seconds; the Jersey City Medical Center ambulance response time averages approximately six minutes.
Improved response time saves lives
Whether heart attacks, strokes, or traffic accidents, the difference between life and death is often determined by how quickly an ambulance can reach the scene of an incident.
“Response time is integral in improving patient outcomes,” said Joseph F. Scott, FACHE- President and CEO, Jersey City Medical Center. “The United Rescue program will help increase Jersey City Medical Center’s already world-renowned survival rates and ensure that the residents of Jersey City receive the most prompt, professional, and proficient pre-hospital care.”
Scott continued, “Jersey City Medical Center is about making sure that people are healthy and safe. Anything that gets people to a patient sooner is a good thing.”
Robert Luckritz, director of EMS for JCMC, said the volunteers would be trained and insured by JCMC and operate under JCMC directives. They would not be sent into an active crime scene or any situation which would put them at risk.
Options for training
John Seborowski, a retired executive who lives in Jersey City Heights, said he volunteered for the program to help people.
He said he had been trained by his former company in CPR, and felt he had time and some experience to become part of the program, which offers training on Saturdays and during the week.
“But this is summer. I don’t want to spend all my Saturdays training,” he said. So he has opted to train on two weekdays at two separate locations in Jersey City.
Although the first group is about 60 volunteers, the city hopes to have a force of about 250 when fully implemented.
Each volunteer would carry a bag of gear that would allow him or her to administer basic life support services. In some cases, in high traffic areas, volunteers would also have use of motorcycles or motor scooters to get through traffic jams.
“We are thrilled to be exporting our Israeli techniques to help the residents of Jersey City get better, faster emergency services,” said United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer, who will be on hand for the initial training. “We look forward to sharing in the success of United Rescue, Jersey City!”
Although the model has been successfully deployed in Argentina, Brazil, Panama, and Lithuania, Jersey City will be the first city in the United States to deploy the program.
The program is expected to be operational in the fall and anyone who is interested in becoming a Jersey City Community Based Emergency Caregiver can register at the program’s website at http://www.unitedrescue.us.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.