The mission of every branch of Hatzolah is to safeguard the lives of the people in its community. This is done by providing the highest quality pre-hospital medical care, using the latest equipment, all while adhering to accepted halachic (Jewish law) guidelines.
Medically, all members are trained in the latest life-saving techniques and procedures in the pre-hospital setting. This is done by attending regularly held continuing education lectures, designed to keep their skill-set current, and to provide training on protocol updates as the field of pre-hospital medicine evolves.
Halachically, all members are required to attend shiurim (classes in Jewish law), and read selected material that covers all of the typical areas of halacha that might be encountered in the normal course of operation.
Operationally, all members carry a full set of first-responder equipment (such as oxygen & airway supplies, trauma supplies, defibrillators, Epi-Pens, etc.) in their personal vehicles. Members are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, using a two-way radio system. Our dispatchers are trained EMTs, paramedics, or nurses who can properly triage calls, and initiate life-saving care over the phone if necessary. Additionally, the dispatchers also have the contact information for many other municipal agencies in the event that additional resources are needed - such as in a mass casualty incident.
Hatzolah was started in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, in the late 1960s by Rabbi Hershel Weber. It was started to address a need in the Jewish community for an ambulance service that understood its cultural and religious needs, and to reduce the time it took to receive crucial, lifesaving medical care. The idea spread quickly. Today, Hatzolah is the largest volunteer ambulance service in the United States, with over 90 ambulances and around 2,000 volunteers throughout its many branches. Additionally, Hatzolah operates in many countries around the world.
The secret to Hatzolah's success is that Hatzolah's volunteers work, daven, study, shop, sleep, and go about their ordinary lives while being constantly on-call. They carry their two-way radios 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When a call goes out over the emergency radio, the closest volunteers immediately rush to the scene with the lifesaving equipment they keep in their cars. Often, in severe medical emergencies, the first few minutes are the most crucial. Since the volunteers are not tied to a squad building or one specific location, there are almost always volunteers who happen to be within a few blocks of the call. In fact, there have been many times when a member has shown up at the door before the caller finished advising everyone in the house that he/she called.
The members who respond to these calls for help, do so without any compensation. The knowledge that they made a difference by improving the life of a family in a moment of dire need, is all the compensation they require. Additionally, for many, the call doesn't end with the transport to the hospital, or even within a few days of that transport. It only ends after the volunteers have made sure that everyone in need is cared for, and has the resources that they need (meals, referrals, child care, etc.).