Industry News, Mass Casualty Incidents, Training

Volunteer EMS Organization United Hatzalah, Israel Defense Forces Hold Cooperative MCI Drill

March 14th, Jerusalem – On Monday February, 29th, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) held a Mass Casualty Training Exercise (MCI) near the densely populated city of Beitar Illit which is located in Northern Gush Etzion. The United Hatzalah volunteer EMTs, Paramedics and Doctors of Beitar Illit participated in the exclusive MCI training exercise that was held in partnership with the IDF Medical Corps, the air force and the prestigious 669 unit.

The unified drill included extraction of multiple victims via helicopters, ambulances, and United Hatzalah ambucycles. Tens of United Hatzalah volunteer EMT’s, paramedics and doctors, participated in the event and learned how to work together with the IDF to provide the fastest and best care for civilians in the area.

During the drill, dozens of soldiers acted as injured as well as incapacitated victims of a mass casualty event. The United Hatzalah teams worked together with the IDF during the entire exercise, practicing helicopter evacuation protocols.

Shmuel Avraham, the Director of Emergency and Security Operations at United Hatzalah spoke about the liaison that has been created between the IDF and United Hatzalah. “Various IDF groups drill numerous times each year and each drill is different. The most recent drill took place two weeks ago during which United Hatzalah partnered with the Gush Etzion Brigade to drill the combined response of the IDF working together with United Hatzalah in the eventuality of a mass casualty situation occurring in or near Gush Etzion.”

According to Avraham, the location of the drill was chosen as the town of Beitar, in Northern Gush Etzion area due to its high population density as well as its distance from a hospital. The distance and traffic mixed together with the possibility of mass casualties from the densely populated city provided the extra challenge of arranging a triage and evacuation location from a field nearby so that the “victims” could be airlifted to the hospital. This provided both the IDF and United Hatzalah volunteers with a realistic scenario that necessitated the drilling and airlift of injured persons via helicopter to nearby hospitals in Jerusalem.

“United Hatzalah volunteers trained together with the IDF Units that included the Air Force, as well as special forces Airborne Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669,” Avraham added. The 669 Unit is the IDF’s heliborne Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) extraction unit and is subordinate to the Special Air Forces Command of the Israeli Air Force.

Chief Paramedic for United Hatzalah, Avi Marcus, who was part of the collaborative team for the event, talked about the reason for the holding the cooperative drill with the IDF.  

“The main idea was to find the best way for United Hatzalah volunteers to work together with the army, both their medics and the air force. We met the medics and paramedics in the field, we gave them a brief on how we work, and they briefed us on how they work and we came to mutual conclusions on the best way to do things. We treated “victims” together, and both sides learned new ways on how to treat patients during an MCI.”

“Our medics learned how to approach helicopters while carrying patients, and learned the proper procedures on how to transfer patients to and from helicopters. Some of our medics flew with the helicopters to learn how it works and how the noise and transport can affect the patient. It was a very meaningful evening full of learning for both sides,” concluded Marcus.

Avraham noted that orchestrating a cooperative event such as this is not easy and requires weeks of planning for all of the participating organizations and the military to put everything into motion. Thanks to the efforts on all sides the drill was a success.

“The event was very successful” said Avraham, “the IDF medics as well as the 669 Unit were very grateful for the collaborative efforts that were provided by United Hatzalah. They were impressed by the level of efficiency and professionalism that our volunteers worked with.”