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TEDMED 2013

Eli Beer: The fastest ambulance? A motorcycle

April 16, 2013

As a young EMT on a Jerusalem ambulance, Eli Beer realized that, stuck in brutal urban traffic, they often arrived too late to help. So he organized a group of volunteer EMTs -- many on foot -- ready to drop everything and dash to save lives in their neighborhood. Today, United Hatzlah uses a smartphone app and a fleet of “ambucycles” to help nearby patients until an ambulance arrives. With an average response time of 3 minutes, last year, they treated 207,000 people in Israel. And the idea is going global.

Eli Beer - Life saver
Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, has re-imagined first response by training EMT volunteers to respond to local calls and keep people alive until official help arrives. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
This is an ambucycle.
00:12
This is the fastest way to reach any medical emergency.
00:15
It has everything an ambulance has except for a bed.
00:20
You see the defibrillator. You see the equipment.
00:24
We all saw the tragedy that happened in Boston.
00:28
When I was looking at these pictures,
00:31
it brought me back many years to my past
00:33
when I was a child.
00:36
I grew up in a small neighborhood in Jerusalem.
00:38
When I was six years old, I was walking back from school
00:41
on a Friday afternoon with my older brother.
00:45
We were passing by a bus stop.
00:49
We saw a bus blow up in front of our eyes.
00:51
The bus was on fire, and many people were hurt and killed.
00:55
I remembered an old man
01:00
yelling to us and crying to help us get him up.
01:02
He just needed someone helping him.
01:05
We were so scared and we just ran away.
01:08
Growing up, I decided I wanted to become a doctor and save lives.
01:11
Maybe that was because of what I saw when I was a child.
01:15
When I was 15, I took an EMT course,
01:18
and I went to volunteer on an ambulance.
01:22
For two years, I volunteered on an ambulance in Jerusalem.
01:25
I helped many people,
01:28
but whenever someone really needed help,
01:30
I never got there in time. We never got there.
01:33
The traffic is so bad. The distance, and everything.
01:35
We never got there when somebody really needed us.
01:38
One day, we received a call about a seven-year-old child
01:40
choking from a hot dog.
01:43
Traffic was horrific, and we were coming from
01:45
the other side of town in the north part of Jerusalem.
01:47
When we got there, 20 minutes later,
01:50
we started CPR on the kid.
01:53
A doctor comes in from a block away,
01:55
stop us, checks the kid, and tells us to stop CPR.
01:59
That second he declared this child dead.
02:04
At that moment, I understood
02:08
that this child died for nothing.
02:11
If this doctor, who lived one block away from there,
02:14
would have come 20 minutes earlier,
02:17
not have to wait until that siren he heard before
02:19
coming from the ambulance,
02:22
if he would have heard about it way before,
02:23
he would have saved this child.
02:26
He could have run from a block away.
02:28
He could have saved this child.
02:30
I said to myself, there must be a better way.
02:32
Together with 15 of my friends --
02:34
we were all EMTs —
02:36
we decided, let's protect our neighborhood,
02:38
so when something like that happens again,
02:40
we will be there running to the scene a lot before the ambulance.
02:42
So I went over to the manager of the ambulance company
02:46
and I told him, "Please, whenever you have a call
02:49
coming into our neighborhood,
02:51
we have 15 great guys who are willing
02:53
to stop everything they're doing and run and save lives.
02:54
Just alert us by beeper.
02:57
We'll buy these beepers, just tell your dispatch
02:59
to send us the beeper, and we will run and save lives."
03:01
Well, he was laughing. I was 17 years old. I was a kid.
03:05
And he said to me — I remember this like yesterday —
03:12
he was a great guy, but he said to me,
03:15
"Kid, go to school, or go open a falafel stand.
03:18
We're not really interested in these kinds of new adventures.
03:22
We're not interested in your help." And he threw me out of the room.
03:26
"I don't need your help," he said.
03:30
I was a very stubborn kid.
03:32
As you see now, I'm walking around like crazy, meshugenah.
03:36
(Laughter) (Applause)
03:39
So I decided to use the Israeli very famous technique
03:44
you've probably all heard of, chutzpah. (Laughter)
03:48
And the next day, I went and I bought two police scanners,
03:52
and I said, "The hell with you, if you don't want
03:57
to give me information, I'll get the information myself."
03:58
And we did turns, who's going to listen to the radio scanners.
04:01
The next day, while I was listening to the scanners,
04:04
I heard about a call coming in of a 70-year-old man
04:07
hurt by a car only one block away from me
04:11
on the main street of my neighborhood.
04:14
I ran there by foot. I had no medical equipment.
04:17
When I got there, the 70-year-old man
04:20
was lying on the floor, blood was gushing out of his neck.
04:22
He was on Coumadin.
04:25
I knew I had to stop his bleeding or else he would die.
04:27
I took off my yarmulke, because I had no medical equipment,
04:32
and with a lot of pressure, I stopped his bleeding.
04:35
He was bleeding from his neck.
04:37
When the ambulance arrived 15 minutes later,
04:39
I gave them over a patient who was alive.
04:42
(Applause)
04:45
When I went to visit him two days later,
04:53
he gave me a hug and was crying
04:55
and thanking me for saving his life.
04:57
At that moment, when I realized this is the first person
05:00
I ever saved in my life after two years volunteering in an ambulance,
05:03
I knew this is my life's mission.
05:06
So today, 22 years later, we have United Hatzalah.
05:09
(Applause)
05:13
"Hatzalah" means "rescue," for all of you who don't know Hebrew.
05:20
I forgot I'm not in Israel.
05:23
So we have thousands of volunteers
05:25
who are passionate about saving lives,
05:28
and they're spread all around, so whenever a call comes in,
05:31
they just stop everything and go and run and save a life.
05:33
Our average response time today
05:38
went down to less than three minutes in Israel.
05:40
(Applause)
05:44
I'm talking about heart attacks,
05:48
I'm talking about car accidents,
05:49
God forbid bomb attacks, shootings, whatever it is,
05:51
even a woman 3 o'clock in the morning
05:54
falling in her home and needs someone to help her.
05:56
Three minutes, we'll have a guy with his pajamas
05:58
running to her house and helping her get up.
06:00
The reasons why we're so successful are because of three things.
06:04
Thousands of passionate volunteers
06:07
who will leave everything they do
06:09
and run to help people they don't even know.
06:11
We're not there to replace ambulances.
06:14
We're just there
06:16
to get the gap between the ambulance call until they arrive.
06:18
And we save people that otherwise would not be saved.
06:24
The second reason is because of our technology.
06:28
You know, Israelis are good in technology.
06:32
Every one of us has on his phone, no matter what kind of phone,
06:34
a GPS technology done by NowForce,
06:37
and whenever a call comes in,
06:40
the closest five volunteers get the call,
06:42
and they actually get there really quick,
06:44
and navigated by a traffic navigator to get there and not waste time.
06:47
And this is a great technology we use all over the country
06:50
and reduce the response time.
06:53
And the third thing are these ambucycles.
06:54
These ambucycles are an ambulance on two wheels.
06:56
We don't transfer people, but we stabilize them,
07:00
and we save their lives.
07:02
They never get stuck in traffic. They could even go on a sidewalk.
07:03
They never, literally, get stuck in traffic.
07:06
That's why we get there so fast.
07:09
A few years after I started this organization,
07:11
in a Jewish community,
07:13
two Muslims from east Jerusalem called me up.
07:15
They ask me to meet. They wanted to meet with me.
07:18
Muhammad Asli and Murad Alyan.
07:20
When Muhammad told me his personal story,
07:23
how his father, 55 years old, collapsed at home,
07:24
had a cardiac arrest,
07:28
and it took over an hour for an ambulance arrive,
07:29
and he saw his father die in front of his eyes,
07:31
he asked me, "Please start this in east Jerusalem."
07:33
I said to myself, I saw so much tragedy, so much hate,
07:36
and it's not about saving Jews. It's not about saving Muslims.
07:40
It's not about saving Christians. It's about saving people.
07:43
So I went ahead, full force --
07:47
(Applause) —
07:49
and I started United Hatzalah in east Jerusalem,
07:54
and that's why the names United
07:58
and Hatzalah match so well.
08:00
We started hand in hand saving Jews and Arabs.
08:02
Arabs were saving Jews. Jews were saving Arabs.
08:05
Something special happened.
08:08
Arabs and Jews, they don't always get along together,
08:10
but here in this situation,
08:12
the communities, literally,
08:14
it's an unbelievable situation that happened,
08:15
the diversities, all of a sudden they had a common interest:
08:18
Let's save lives together.
08:20
Settlers were saving Arabs and Arabs were saving settlers.
08:22
It's an unbelievable concept that could work
08:24
only when you have such a great cause.
08:26
And these are all volunteers.
08:29
No one is getting money.
08:31
They're all doing it for the purpose of saving lives.
08:32
When my own father collapsed a few years ago
08:36
from a cardiac arrest, one of the first volunteers
08:38
to arrive to save my father
08:41
was one of these Muslim volunteers from east Jerusalem
08:43
who was in the first course to join Hatzalah.
08:45
And he saved my father.
08:49
Could you imagine how I felt in that moment?
08:50
When I started this organization, I was 17 years old.
08:54
I never imagined that one day I'd be speaking at TEDMED.
08:57
I never even knew what TEDMED was then.
09:01
I don't think it existed, but I never imagined,
09:03
I never imagined that it's going to go all around,
09:06
it's going to spread around,
09:08
and this last year we started in Panama and Brazil.
09:09
All I need is a partner who is a little meshugenah like me,
09:12
passionate about saving lives, and willing to do it.
09:16
And I'm actually starting it in India very soon
09:19
with a friend who I met in Harvard just a while back.
09:23
Hatzalah actually started in Brooklyn by a Hasidic Jew
09:26
years before us in Williamsburg,
09:30
and now it's all over the Jewish community in New York,
09:33
even Australia and Mexico and many other Jewish communities.
09:35
But it could spread everywhere.
09:39
It's very easy to adopt.
09:40
You even saw these volunteers in New York
09:43
saving lives in the World Trade Center.
09:45
Last year alone, we treated in Israel 207,000 people.
09:48
Forty-two thousand of them were life-threatening situations.
09:52
And we made a difference.
09:56
I guess you could call this a lifesaving flash mob,
09:59
and it works.
10:01
When I look all around here,
10:04
I see lots of people who would go an extra mile,
10:06
run an extra mile to save other people,
10:10
no matter who they are, no matter what religion,
10:12
no matter who, where they come from.
10:15
We all want to be heroes.
10:18
We just need a good idea, motivation
10:20
and lots of chutzpah,
10:23
and we could save millions of people
10:25
that otherwise would not be saved.
10:27
Thank you very much.
10:29
(Applause)
10:31

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Eli Beer - Life saver
Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah, has re-imagined first response by training EMT volunteers to respond to local calls and keep people alive until official help arrives.

Why you should listen

When he was 6-years-old, Eli Beer was walking home from school when he witnessed a bus bombing in Jerusalem. This traumatic experience inspired Beer to seek out a career that saves lives. At age 15, he took an EMT course and began volunteering on an ambulance. But he found that, when someone truly needed fast medical attention, the ambulance just wasn't able to get there in time because of traffic and the distance needed to travel.

At age 17, Beer gathered a like-minded group of EMTs with a passion for saving lives to listen to police scanners and rush to the scene when medical help was needed in their neighborhood. The initiative became United Hatzalah, which is Hebrew for “rescue.” Twenty-five years later, the organization has more than 2,000 volunteers and helped 207,000 people as they waited for an ambulance last year. Beer serves as United Hatzalah’s president.

Beer has responded to some of the worst civil, wartime and terror-related incidents. In 2010, he was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Israel by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and, two years later, became a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Married with five children, when Beer is not saving lives or guiding United Hatzalah, he manages the family real estate company, Beer Realty.

The original video is available on TED.com
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