Eli Beer is the founder of United Hatzalah, a volunteer rescue service he created in Israel, where emergencies are an everyday occurrence.
Beer was one of the featured speakers at TEDMED — the annual conference that brings together medical professionals, scientists, researchers, educators, artists and athletes — His speech title caused a lot of great minds to think about whether or not what he was proposing is possible: “How can we save 40,000 lives in under three minutes?”
He answered the riddle asked in the title like this, “The average response time of a traditional ambulance is 12 to 15 minutes — we reduce it to less than three minutes. Our response is the fastest in the world. We call our approach a lifesaving flash mob. On motorcycles, traffic doesn’t stop us. Nothing does.”
“Last year, United Hatzalah (Hebrew for ‘rescue’) treated 207,000 people — more than 42,000 of them in life-threatening conditions,” says Beer. “We got there in under three minutes and made a huge difference.”
Beer is in charge of 2,000 trained volunteers who all come from different backgrounds in order to help save lives. The volunteers treat everyone as well, regardless of ethcinity or background, and Jews and Muslims frequently serve side by side in this force.
They make record time in a fleet of small cars, ambu-cycles, ambu-tractors and ambu-boats — all equipped with heart defibrillators, breathing tubes, burn wraps and maternity kits. Usually, they get there first, treating and stabilizing patients until ambulances arrive for transport.
He realized this is what he wanted to do with his life when, at the tender age of 6 years old, a terrorist bomb blew apart a Jerusalem bus passing right in front of him. That memory has haunted him ever since then.
“That day began a simple dream — the dream of being able to save people from dying waiting for an ambulance,” reflects Beer. As a teen, he bought two police scanners, then dropped out of high school to become a paramedic.
United Hatzalah volunteers responders use a specially designed, state-of-the-art GPS system called NowForce.
“We are all connected with an app on our smartphones,” says Beer. As calls come in, traffic-control navigators alert the first five responders closest to the scene. There are times volunteers tear out of their homes in the middle of the night and arrive onsite still wearing pajamas.
“At first, huge monopolies saw us as hurting their business. What’s evolved is that they’ve actually reduced prices because of us. Their service got better because of us,” says Beer.
“Now, we work closely with more than 100 ambulance companies in Israel. They know we are there for them. We don’t replace ambulances — we fill a gap. We send our people out to the scene. Whenever the ambulances arrive, that’s fine. If there’s a patient we can save, we will be there to save them.”
Getting volunteers is not hard for Beer at all either. In fact, there is a waiting list to sign up for the organization’s 300-hour training course.
Kudos to you Mr. Beer