On Sunday afternoon, December 18, Hatzolah of Queens and Great Neck celebrated the donation of a new Hatzolah ambulance, Q902, to join its fleet. The new bus will be housed at the Yeshiva of Central Queens in the existing area that has long been dedicated for Hatzolah’s usage. To celebrate this occasion, a large group of community leaders, elected officials, and community members surrounded the new Hatzolah ambulance on 78th Drive, just off of 138th Street, for a splendid induction ceremony in front of the home of esteemed philanthropists Bernie and Chaya Shafran.

The ambulance was donated by Shandi and Sruli Glaser, Alissa and Shimmie Horn, Malkie and Abe Levine, and Devorah and Dov Elias. Each of the donors received a beautiful, large plaque.

The ambulance is dedicated in honor of Marilyn Zimmer and in memory of Moshe Horn a”h, Jack & Genia Horn a”h, Yankel Zimmer a”h, and Nadja Ingberman a”h.

In spite of the frigid December temperature, there was a feeling of warmth and camaraderie, as everyone in attendance shared a feeling of gratitude and support for all that Hatzolah does for our community. Delicious cookies with pictures of a Hatzolah ambulance imprinted on them, and hot drinks, were served.

Mr. Bernie Shafran, a well-known community leader, welcomed everyone. He thanked each of the generous donors by name and expressed gratitude on behalf of the community for their magnanimous donation. He added that no one should ever need to use the ambulance. He welcomed the rabbanim, community leaders, and supporters of Hatzolah who came. He then introduced Councilman Jim Gennaro of

District 24, who is a strong supporter of Hatzolah and does so much to help support our community.

First, Mrs. Marilyn Zimmer, the great-bubby, spoke briefly. She shared that she never expected anything like this. She thanked her children, her sons-in-law, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and friends for coming out in the cold to support this worthy cause. She then offered a brachah to everyone: “You should all have nachas from your families all the time.”

Next, Councilman Gennaro began by saying, “I’m shepping nachas right now.” He said that a Hatzolah ambulance costs $350,000, and if we need it, he would allocate city funds for it. He noted how our community takes care of each other.  Hatzolah is always there for us. He shared that one time he was injured and Hatzolah and a city ambulance came to the scene. Hatzolah said they would take care of him. “I knew I was in good hands,” he shared. Even with a broken collarbone, the ride was smooth, and he felt he was being taken care of.

He added that there will be appropriate accommodation on Main Street for the ambulances. “We’ll figure out how to get it done.” He concluded, “I am gratified to be here, and I am happy to support Hatzolah,” and thanked everyone for supporting it.

Following this was the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Mrs. Zimmer held the large scissors and cut the red ribbon that stretched in front of the ambulance. After the ceremony, there was lively music and some people danced in a small circle near her.

As stated on their website: “Queens Hatzolah was founded in 1978. After witnessing the success of Chevrah Hatzalah in Brooklyn, seven Queens residents decided to bring the organization to our neighborhood. In 1979 we began transporting patients by station wagon, and in 1981 we purchased our first ambulance. From these humble beginnings, we have grown into our current multi- faceted organization, with top-of-the-line training, equipment, and ambulances.”

As this writer mentioned in a previous article, we are all exposed to the lights and sirens as we watch the Hatzolah members drive by as they respond to all types of emergencies. We recite T’hilim for both the members and the person in need. What we are not exposed to is what happens behind the scenes. The hours of planning, training, debriefing, and even follow-up with patients that takes place.

One aspect that must be mentioned, and that few are aware of, is the “night shift” rotation system. Hatzolah members volunteer (yes, volunteer) to sit in an ambulance from 1:00 a.m. until 7:00 a.m., awake and ready to respond immediately, no matter the weather condition. On the contrary, during a snowstorm or hurricane-like conditions, additional ambulances are manned and Hatzolah members are taking shifts day and night for the duration of the storm to assure that calls are covered and fewer members are put in harm’s way when attempting to respond using their personal vehicles. Rather, an ambulance with two members will be strategically stationed within our community, alert and arriving on the scene within minutes of the call for help.

Another aspect of Hatzolah of Queens & Great Neck that the public is unaware of is the amount and high quality of training required and acquired by the members during their Hatzolah career. There are two levels of Hatzolah responders. The BLS (or EMTs), and ALS (paramedics). Every member is state-certified as either an EMT or paramedic. Besides that, Hatzolah goes one step further by internally training and “certifying” their members. That process is the following: A new member will first bear the status of an “observer.” He will respond to a call under the supervision of senior members. The latter will guide him and teach him the important things to look out for, what questions to ask, and to help him get comfortable in emergency situations.

After taking approximately 50-70 calls, the “observer” is upgraded to a “backup unit.” Here, he will be responding as a second responder, and after the senior member has responded. Since the “backup unit” has more extensive experience, he will be encouraged to assume scene command.

With every second counting and decisions to be made that will determine the patient’s future, this is a very important step in the process. As a “backup unit,” the member must still take another 50-70 calls plus a written and oral exam. Only then is he upgraded to a “first responder.”

As a first responder, the member will be fully qualified to control just about any emergency. Only at this point is he actually qualified to drive an ambulance. This “upgrading process” applies to the paramedic level, as well.

Perhaps now you can understand Hatzolah’s perspective. “EMTs are the first line of defense, and the paramedics bring the hospital to the patient.”

The EMTs identify and stabilize the potential life-threating situation, preventing the matter from deteriorating further. The paramedics are the ones who administer advanced medications and much, much more.

Hatzolah’s members are always equipped with the most advance and efficient lifesaving equipment available. They can deal with a simple paper cut all the way to childbirth and beyond.

The Coordinators are constantly searching for and evaluating the new and innovative lifesaving equipment as soon as it becomes available. They look for the best possible means to ensure that the volunteers can help members of the community in the best possible way.

Our community is grateful for the tremendous m’siras nefesh of Hatzolah members and for the generous donation of the new ambulance. May Hashem bless our community with good health so that we do not need it.

By Susie Garber