Will United Hatzalah’s angels still have wings next year?

As push-to-talk technology is phased out, emergency responders globally search for a different solution. Will United Hatzalah survive?


United Hatzalah ambulance
United Hatzalah ambulance
United Hatzalah

It’s the end of a regular day’s work. You’re walking down the street heading home. Out of the corner of your eye you notice an elderly woman leaving a grocery store, granny cart faithfully following her. A second later you hear it – the crash of the cart, a body falling to the ground, gasps of the passerby’s.

Her hand is on her heart and she’s grasping for air… every second counts.

1, 2, 3 – cell phone is in hand

4, 5 – you dial 1221

6, 7, 8 – ring, ring

9, 10 – “United Hatzalah, what’s your emergency?”

11, 12, …. 100 - The angels in orange arrive.

As you walk away, you take a deep breath knowing the emergency is in capable, well trained, volunteer hands, but you wonder, what happened behind the scenes between second 10 and 100?

After you hung up with the emergency dispatch service, the dispatcher immediately contacted the volunteer medics closest to the scene, using high-end walkie-talkies containing a simple and user-friendly technology called PTT (push to talk). These devices allow the dispatcher and medic to communicate quickly and efficiently, two qualities that are key for the lifesaving response time that Hatzalah is known for.

Now, the emergency service is facing a life or death emergency of its own – without a means to communicate efficiently the angels in orange may lose their wings.

In a recent announcement from the network that supports the 2G technology PTT depends on, it was declared that 2G would be obsolete in 2018, with a 4G network taking its place. This is forcing emergency responders around the world to either purchase new equipment modeled for the new 4G network, or eliminate PTT communication. While there are many new innovations in communication technology, PTT has already proven to be highly effective. With seconds meaning the difference between life and death, reinventing the wheel isn’t a viable option - rather, it’s time to roll with the times and update it instead.

In an effort to solve this communication crisis, United Hatzalah and Bluebird technologies partnered up to create a PTT-smartphone hybrid.

“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 United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer.

The devices, known as Bluebird RP350-rugged smartphones, optimize communication and data management, and improve response time and incident management. In other words, medics will be able to arrive at the scene in record-breaking response time, while receiving continuous information from dispatchers while en route. They will also have an image and video transmission interface, allowing for real-time image sharing and video streaming. With the added element of image and video communication, dispatchers will be able to get the full picture of the scene, literally, allowing them to allocate resources and optimize incident management.

The technology is in place, and the solution exists. But help is needed to make it happen. United Hatzalah is currently aiming to purchase 5000 units by the end of 2019, for their current volunteers and expected additional volunteers. But as you can imagine,, the new platform and devices are not cheap. In fact, it will cost millions of dollars.

The prospect of United Hatzalah shutting down is a heartbreaking reality if these funds aren’t raised in a lifesaving response time.

The clock is ticking, donate now >>