Hatzalah adapts to technological revolution

As service ends for 2G smartphones serving defense and medical organizations, Hatzalah develops new communication tools for responders.

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United Hatzalah volunteers
United Hatzalah volunteers
Courtesy of United Hatzalah

During the spring of 2018 service will be suspended indefinitely for all IDEN 2G network phones in Israel. This includes the current Motorola push to talk (PTT) devices used by Israeli Police, military, security organizations, and EMS organizations such as MDA, Zaka and United Hatzalah.

While some organizations are simply purchasing new equipment modeled for the new 4G network, others are doing away with PTT communication altogether. The second option eliminates a highly effective form of communication in which first responders can communicate easily with their dispatchers. United Hatzalah for one, is tackling the crisis with a different tactic, innovation.

In an effort to maintain the effectiveness of its nationwide network of volunteers, United Hatzalah has developed a series of systems that will be built into a new cellular platform that will combine the PTT capabilities and allow a two-way radio system to be built into a smartphone. “This isn’t simply a PTT app uploaded to the phone. This is an entirely new device that is being created to suit the specific needs of United Hatzalah volunteers,” said Founder and President of the organization Eli Beer.

We want to enable our volunteers in the field to carry only one device as opposed to two. We are cutting down on this burdensome necessity as well as creating a smartphone/PTT hybrid that will be locked and kosher for our numerous Haredi volunteers. Only the technology department of United Hatzalah will be able to download apps to the phones and the apps that will be on the phones will only be ones that are necessary for our volunteers to carry out their missions.”

Specialized response applications such as the Moskowitz LifeCompass 2.0 app will be pre-programmed into the phones as will WAZE. The two systems will now work together so that when a responder needs to go to an emergency WAZE will the LifeCompass app will open WAZE for them, eliminating the need to type in addresses while en route, making the trip safer for the responder allowing them to arrive faster to their intended patient.

The organization recently completed a trial run of the new phones which they selected. The devices, known as the Bluebird RP#%) rugged smartphones, were developed specifically by the organization in conjunction with Bluebird technologies. The PTT-smartphone hybrid has a longer battery life and strong speaker than the previous Motorola counterparts, both of which are useful tweaks for first responders on the go. The Mobile Device Management (MDM) system will allow United Hatzalah’s technology department to remotely add software upgrades at any time. This system also prevents the volunteers from downloading unauthorized apps from the Internet which may contain viruses, spyware or malware components, and keeps the phones “kosher” for haredi users. The phones have undergone detailed scrutiny all throughout their development process by the technology department as well as the Halachik department of United Hatzalah to ensure that all of the organization’s nearly 4,000 volunteers will be comfortable using the devices. This system also safeguards the devices so that they will remain in good working order and the system will remain secure against hackers.

The new devices are expected to reduce incident response time, optimize communication and data management and improve incident management. They possess a video transmission interface that will allow for streaming video or photos to be shared in real time between the volunteers in the field and the dispatcher, allowing the dispatchers to gain full visibility of the scene, enabling them to effectively allocate resources and optimize incident management.

The rugged mobile device coupled with the LifeCompass 2.0 automated reporting feature provides a 'volunteer-friendly' on-the-fly report-generating feature that will allow volunteers to file the Ministry of Health mandated incident reports quickly, and return to their daily routine without further delay.

However, the new platform and devices are not cheap. Purchasing 3,500 units to equip its current volunteers, as well as an additional 1,500 unit to equip the expected number of additional volunteers that the organization is currently aiming to recruit by the end of 2019, is expected to cost in the Millions of dollars. United Hatzalah urgently needs your help in order to help make this solution viable. The technology is in place, and the solution exists. But help is needed to make it happen.

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