JERSEY CITY – Aug. 10th, 2016 – Upon walking into the EMS center in Jersey City, one is taken aback by the wide range and variety of the heroes that work there everyday in order to save lives across one of America’s most diverse cities.
Jersey City is home to a quarter of a million residents and is the second most populous city in the state of New Jersey. The city boasts over 300 spoken languages and is the capital of Hudson County. Like the city itself, the staff and volunteers of Jersey City’s EMS center come from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities and speak more than 10 languages.
A new hallmark of Jersey City’s emergency medical services is a group of some 100 volunteer CBECs (Community Based Emergency Care-Givers) who remain on alert around the clock to respond to any and all medical crises that take place within their communities. These community based responders are known as United Rescue.
United Rescue has been active in Jersey City for almost a year and is home to everyday heroes that work tirelessly to save lives and to make Jersey City a better place to live for everyone, no matter their background, race, culture, ethnicity or religion. The emergency medical services that they provide are completely free of charge. The program is run as part of the RWJBarnabas Health Center in partnership with the Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC).
United Rescue CBECs follow the same rigorous process and guidelines that medical employees of the Health Center go through, which are state mandated. The CBECs receive 65 hours of emergency medical training and provide pre-ambulance on-site care before EMTs, paramedics and other EMS personnel can respond. The community based system means that the CBECs are often nearby when emergencies occur, and they are trained to respond to the call and treat the patient while assessing whether or not there is a need for further BLS or ALS care. The use of CBECs has allowed for a lessening of the workload on EMS personnel throughout the city, and CBECs often ride along on ambulance shifts when available to further ease the workload.
Paula Hollenbeck, a volunteer CBEC who also works for United Rescue in the RWJBarnabas Health Center, said that the group of volunteer CBECs is a welcoming and diverse group. “We have volunteers working with us from the age of 18 all the way up to retirees. Our first class of graduated CBECs spoke ten different languages alone.”
Shina Goodin, an EMT from New York City, also volunteers with United Rescue. “One of the most memorable calls that I have responded to with United Rescue was a CVA (cerebrovascular accident or stroke) call. We got the call just as we were leaving a party, and the call came from right around the corner from where we were located. We arrived in almost no time and began to assess the patient and provide treatment. The EMS teams met us there and we were able to help them shave off precious minutes by providing them with all of the background information that they needed.”
United Rescue has a dedicated dispatcher from the city’s emergency dispatch team that dispatches EMS as well as United Rescue CBECs simultaneously. Due to their proximity, the CBECs often show up ahead of the EMS ambulances and provide vital first aid treatment in the precious minutes following a medical emergency.
“The whole summer is busy for us, as there are a lot of calls in to 9-1-1 regarding medical emergencies during the school vacation months, but July 4th is probably our busiest day of the year,” said Paul Sosman, director of United Rescue. “The pre-ambulance service has already begun receiving and responding to an incredible amount of emergency calls. Our EMS teams receive on average 300 calls per day, which equals 90,000 a year, and our call volume just continues to grow. Our CBECs work hand in hand with the EMS teams and they are specifically trained to do so in order to provide fast and seamless emergency medical aid.”
Shmuel Elbaum, a Hassidic volunteer CBEC who lives in New York State but works in Jersey City, recently saved a man’s life with United Rescue. “I received a call regarding an unconscious patient and headed over to the location, which was nearby my place of work. I recognized immediately that the individual was suffering from an overdose and I used NARCAN to treat the patient and reverse the effects of the overdose. I worked with the EMS personnel who arrived on scene to keep the patient alive and they were very thankful for my assistance.”
Reflecting on the incident, Elbaum said, “We are here to help the patient. But part of our job is to also help out the EMS personnel who respond to calls and make their jobs easier.”
Regarding religious complications that may arise in the organization, Elbaum responded and said, “We are all a family here. I try to help out the system and the other EMS workers as much as I can. To do our bit to save the lives of others is all that anyone can do. We are simply doing our part. Everything from treating patients to schlepping gear for the EMS teams once they are on site, we do it all, and we do it to help.”
Shortly after graduating the second group of CBEC volunteers, Sosman said that “we aim to have as many volunteers as possible and saturate the city with emergency caregivers. This way we can raise the survival rate of those suffering from medical emergencies and lower EMS response time to under two minutes throughout the city.”
In order to bridge the location gap, the organization uses NowForce technology to identify the location of the nearest CBEC to any medical emergency and dispatch them immediately. If a language problem crops up and the patient speaks a language that our CBECs do not know we have the call patched through to the language line, which provides help for those who do not speak enough English. “The language barrier is always a challenge for first responders, as communicating with the patient as well as witnesses is one of the most important tasks of a first responder. Luckily, here, there is almost always someone who speaks the language. If not, we rely on Language Line. Thankfully we have been very successful thus far, and we hope to continue to be so in the future.”