Hatzalah grows as more volunteers step forward


The community turned out in force — 1,600 strong — to the 33rd annual Hatzalah Barbecue on Sunday at the Sands at Atlantic Beach.

Rabbi Elozer Kanner, a coordinator of the Chevra Hatzalah of the Rockaways and Nassau County, said “it was the first time that we actually spread out across the Sands — we used all 360 degrees.”

Since last year’s barbecue, Hatzalah has been upgrading, offering CPR classes for men and women and in Spanish for housekeepers.

Plans are underway to renovate the ambulance site on West Broadway in Woodmere to “make it fit in with the neighborhood,” Kanner said. It will be used as an office, supply room and a place to park the ambulances. “Hopefully we will make Woodmere our next main station,” supplementing the station at 621 B. 9 St. in Far Rockaway. And new ambulances are slated to be added to the fleet this summer, he said.

“After Sandy we realized that our ambulances are not heavy or high enough,” Kanner explained. “When dealing with rising water, a couple of inches make a difference.” The new ambulances “are considerably higher and heavier duty. When driving in water it makes a difference. They have more ability to go over a branch and go where we need to go. It’s not a helicopter, but the best we can do in the world of ambulances.”

Hatzalah added West Hempstead to its roster of covered towns more than a year ago, and now services the Rockaway peninsula and Nassau County from Belle Harbor through Far Rockaway, from Atlantic Beach to Long Beach, and up through Woodmere, North Woodmere, East Rockaway, Inwood, Hewlett, West Hempstead and JFK Airport.

“Recently there were a number of times that we received six simultaneous calls and all the local ambulances were on calls, 24 members all on call,” recounted Kanner. “It’s a little bit scary. What is going to be if there is a seventh call? We will have to call in from an adjacent neighborhood. It’s impressive and scary.”

Rabbi Herschel Weber first launched the Hatzalah concept in the mid 1960s in Williamsburg. Kanner recounted that Weber was present when someone collapsed and 911 was called. By the time the ambulance got there the person had died and the EMT stated that if they had arrived a few minutes earlier the victim would have had a chance.

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