Saving lives - one phone call at a time

By replicating United Hatzalah’s groundbreaking technology in Israel, Jersey City’s United Rescue is revamping how it’s aiding their citizens’ calls of distress.

United Rescue volunteers, from left, Angela Ramos, Paula Hollenback and Shina Goodin, pose in front of an EMS vehicle at their facility in Jersey City, New Jersey earlier this month. (photo credit: NOA AMOUYAL)
United Rescue volunteers, from left, Angela Ramos, Paula Hollenback and Shina Goodin, pose in front of an EMS vehicle at their facility in Jersey City, New Jersey earlier this month.
(photo credit: NOA AMOUYAL)
For Shina Goodin, 44, volunteering at United Rescue is a family affair. The Brooklyn native met her husband while she was working as a paid EMT. The couple now live in Jersey City with their children, who have also been bitten by the altruistic bug.
Goodin’s daughter recently graduated the United Rescue course and her sons are biding their time until they turn 18, and they too can volunteer.
“Some people say ‘wrong place wrong time,’ I say, ‘Right place, right time,’” Goodin smiles during a tour of the facility in Jersey City.
Paul Sosman, director of the United Rescue program in Jersey City, has been taken aback by the outpouring of grassroots community support for the initiative.
“We started as a grassroots effort with recruiting.
Went to places of worship, hotels, schools, colleges, everywhere. Set up a table, printed up some brochures.
And people would come to us out of curiosity and say, ‘Hey, what’s United Rescue?’” he said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post earlier this month.
At the time, in his mind, having 50 volunteers would have been a smashing success for the fledgling organization.
“But the next thing you know, we had literally hundreds of people signing up and we have a waitlist that we never anticipated,” he marveled.
Now with 85 volunteers on the streets and more on the way, the volunteer organization has successfully shaved off the response time in the city to three minutes, a response time which doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United States.
United Rescue’s success is attributed to adopting the Israeli model, which uses Now Force technology in its own app, a GPS system that enables the national dispatch center to locate volunteers who are in close proximity of an emergency scene and sends them an immediate notification.
After hearing about the model from United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer, and discussing the possibility of bringing it to American soil for the first time, Sosman embarked on a week-long trip to Israel to see how it all worked.
“I spent a week in Israel learning all about the actual model – which was amazing. It’s quite a scene over there,” Sosman said.
Israeli innovation aside, how does Sosman attribute the program’s American success in its short two-year span? “Volunteering is very noble, but this is very different,” he explained, “This isn’t a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, this is high energy, high stakes.
They’re learning a lot in an 85-hour course and they give a lot of themselves to it. They know that every day when they go out to volunteer it’s gonna be something different. No two calls are ever the same.”
In Jersey City, which has a population of roughly 260,000, United Rescue works closely with their Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system and the Jersey City Medical Center.
Fortunately, the saying of too many cooks in the kitchen does not apply here as the three organizations have learned to work closely together in order to save as many lives as possible.
“We like having an extra set of hands. The people who are United Rescue, they don’t want our job, they want to treat the person on the scene for 10 minutes and then go about their day. We do this for a living,” said Sosman, who is a trained paramedic with a masters degree in public administration from Rutgers University.
Despite rampant talk of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement across college campuses and rising antisemitism in the US, Sosman has not experienced any pushback at all about adopting Israeli technology in Jersey City.
“I can unequivocally say that since we started, to me, personally, this has never been an issue,” he said.
“This is about saving lives. Jersey City is not a Jewish City by any stretch of the imagination, we were just rated the most diverse city in the United States of America, we speak over 300 languages here.
Just like the organization in Israel, we are about people of all backgrounds, all cultures and we created this beautiful melting pot, and nobody ever said, ‘We’re not joining because it’s an Israeli organization,” he added.
As the son of a Holocaust survivor, Jersey City’s mayor, Steven Fulop, agreed, saying there wasn’t a moment of hesitancy when adopting United Hatzalah’s Israeli model.
That said, however, what ultimately governed his decision at the end of the day wasn’t about where the technology came from, but that it was effective. “I don’t view it as an example of Israeli technology, I see it as an example of good technology,” he said.
So although the technology may be sophisticated, the basic human desire to help is not.
“If we see a need, we help,” Goodin said.
This story was written in cooperation with United Hatzalah.