United Rescue/United Hatzalah volunteers in action in Cartagena, Colombia
United Rescue/United Hatzalah volunteers in action in Cartagena, ColombiaUnited Rescue/United Hatzalah Colombia

United Hatzalah is expanding its operations to include a new country, Colombia.

Joining to the organization’s international branches which already include Panama, Ukraine and Jersey City in the United States, Colombia is set to become the fifth country in the world to have emergency medical first responders rushing to save lives before ambulances can arrive.

Michael Andorson started the new chapter, which he called United Rescue Colombia (URC), in the Colombian city of Cartagena with a handful of responders on motorcycles. The chapter has been following United Hatzalah’s model, providing emergency medical services free of charge to anyone who needs assistance.

Now that Israel’s team is joining in the efforts, that ethos will stay the exact same.

“This project is so important for Colombia as a country and for the Colombian people,” he said. “People here are dying every day waiting for an ambulance as the average ambulance response time in the capital of Bogota is 45 minutes. The fact that we are joining forces with United Hatzalah is going to change the lives of a lot of people. It is a really big thing for everyone here.”

The new joint organization will take on the name of United Hatzalah and will continue to use ambucycles to respond to medical emergencies throughout Cartagena. It will also begin operations in the capital of Bogota in the coming weeks.

United Hatzalah has committed to sending vests, technology and equipment from Israel to both the existing chapter and the new one.

“Our mission is to save lives wherever needed across the globe,” United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer said. “We are happy to partner with the team already established in Cartagena and expand this project much further so that we can provide emergency medical services to all residents of Colombia.”

The original URC was active prior to the merger and closely mimicked the more established Israeli team. United Hatzalah’s involvement will help the fledgling operation expand to meet its national goals.

“The goal is to expand the current operation, which has been running for a few months now, to the entire country. Now that Cartagena is operational we are working on getting teams set up in the capital city of Bogota,” said United Hatzalah CEO Moshe Teitelbaum, who visited Colombia last week in order to establish operations there.

The Cartagena chapter consists of 28 volunteers and 5 ambucycles. In Bogota, the current plan is to launch the project in two-weeks time once the new fleet of ambucycles arrive. The goal is to build a network of some 500 volunteers in the capital city while at the same time build chapters around the rest of the country. United Hatzalah of Colombia welcomes trained first responders and will also train new ones to help increase the number of volunteers in order to reach that goal.

“United Hatzalah’s system works. It is a wonderful idea that I saw in Israel and I wanted to implement it here, so I did, “ said Andorson. “We are almost at a 3-minute average response time in urban areas where we have a lot of volunteers. We achieve this by combining a network of volunteers from across the city together with the technology and equipment they need to save lives.”

“In addition to saving lives, we are uniting people through a common goal. We do our own training, and we have received a lot of praise from the government, which looks positively on what we are doing here for the city.

“In short, I am very excited that United Hatzalah is officially joining us to help move this project forward. I used their model here in Cartagena and we will now work together to increase it and build up the model and the organization around the entire country.”