As Passover is quickly approaching, United Hatzalah is taking the opportunity to send out a public service announcement with health and safety tips regarding the holiday covering everything from cleaning to hiking.
As in previous years, due to the high volume of emergency calls received by the organization’s Dispatch and Command Center, it has been decided that United Hatzalah will be raising its alert level to enable its volunteer doctors, paramedics, and EMTs to respond to emergencies faster over the course of the holiday. United Hatzalah leadership has instructed all of its volunteers to keep their medical response equipment within arm’s reach, even while they are touring or vacationing with their families.
Founder and President of United Hatzalah Eli Beer said: “Each year we see that the number of emergency calls received by our organization rises dramatically over the holiday. Many of the calls come from hikers who are not careful, incidents in which the burning of the chametz on Erev Pesach got out of hand, and children coming into contact with cleaning agents or choking on bits of chametz or matza. We are therefore asking the public to be more careful this year than in previous years and be especially aware of these issues to avoid medical emergencies so that we can all enjoy a safe, healthy, and happy holiday.”
The following is a list of safety guidelines issued in the hopes of helping the public avoid mishaps:
Burning of the Chametz:
- Chametz should be burned only in the specifically designated containers.
- In areas without specifically designated containers, it is prohibited and dangerous to light a fire near thorns, leaves, pine needles, or other brush that is flammable.
- One should encircle the area around any bonfire with stones to limit possible fire expansion.
- Do not give children items to throw into the fire.
- Do not throw any spray can or container into the fire.
- Do not leave fires burning without supervision. If you light a fire it is your responsibility to supervise it and eventually put it out before you leave the location.
- Make sure to have at least two large full pails of water near any fire.
- If a person’s clothes catch fire, do not run! Stop. Drop onto the ground and roll on the ground numerous times. One can also cover themselves with a thick blanket or towel.
- In any event of a burn, one should place the affected area under cool running water for 15 minutes and get the area checked by a medical professional.
On the holiday itself:
One of the main dangers on Pesach is of choking and allergic sensitivities or reactions. It is therefore advised:
- During meals, one should be careful with matza, especially when giving it to small children, and make sure that the pieces are chewed well to avoid choking.
- Be especially careful of fishbones
- Do not give children under the age of three whole nuts
With regards to medications:
- Bring medications with you if you are visiting or vacationing away from your home over the holiday. It can be very tough to find open pharmacies or lending libraries (gemach) of medications over the holiday.
- Many people who suffer from depression or live on their own find the holidays a particularly difficult time. If you know of any such people it is an act of loving-kindness to invite them to celebrate with you.
In case of choking or having a severe allergic reaction, call for emergency services immediately.
- Bring a wide-brimmed hat and at least four liters of water per day for EVERY person on the hike.
- Wear clothing that is appropriate for the intended hiking path. Clothes that keep a person too hot or too cold can be dangerous.
- When hiking be sure to drink water and not sodas as they do not hydrate a person well.
- Follow trail markers while hiking and do not stray from the outlined path.
- Do not kick or push rocks down hillsides or over cliffs and you can never know who will be at the bottom.
- Do not enter caves without proper equipment such as flashlights and reserve batteries.
- Stay out of caves that are marked as being blighted with Cave Fever. One should check for signs before entering any cave.
- Do not leave trash along the trails and be especially careful of leaving behind anything that is an accelerant or can be flammable. Coals and cigarettes are especially dangerous and need to be disposed of properly.
- Those who are sleeping in tents, make sure not to pitch a tent close to any highways or roadways. In addition, do not pitch tents in areas that are not set aside for camping.
- Do not sleep on or near cliffs or steep hills.
- Make sure at least one contact person, who is not traveling with you, knows where your hike will be going and what time you are expected to be home.
- If there is a suspicion of dehydration, poisoning, or in the event of a snake bite or scorpion sting, call for emergency services immediately.
- With regards to snake bites and scorpion stings, DO NOT cut away at the area, attempt to suck out the poison, cool the area, or put on a tourniquet. The best thing to do in such a case is to immobilize the area and the patient and transport them to a hospital as quickly as possible.
From our family at United Hatzalah to all of yours, we wish all of Israel a safe, happy and healthy holiday.