Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In March 2018, an existential crisis will be hitting Israel’s emergency services organizations. That is when service will be suspended indefinitely for all IDEN 2G network phones which includes the current Motorola push to talk (PTT) devices used by Israeli Police, military, security organizations, and EMS organizations such as MDA, Zaka, and United Hatzalah.

Some organizations are simply purchasing new equipment modeled for the new 4G network that Israel is running while others are doing away with PTT communication altogether, thus eliminating a highly effective form of communication with volunteers in the field. United Hatzalah is facing the crisis with a different tactic: innovation.


In an effort to maintain the effectiveness of its nationwide network of volunteers, United Hatzalah has developed a series of systems built onto a new cellular platform that will combine the PTT  capabilities, allowing a two-way radio system to be built into a smartphone. Thus, volunteers in the field will now only need to carry one device that will allow them both the easy accessibility of the PTT communication with the dispatch center they have thus far enjoyed, and accessibility to all of the necessary apps needed to locate and treat patients faster.

The new devices will include the organization’s signature Lifecompass 2.0 dispatching system which tracks location of all its volunteers in real time and dispatches them to medical emergencies in their area. In addition, it will have a variety of other necessary apps installed such as WAZE, which will automatically start once a location for the emergency is received by the phone. Thus the volunteer responding will be able to focus on getting to the location as fast as possible rather than typing that location into his or her phone and then heading out.

As a trial, the organization has selected to pilot the platform on the LG Bluebird RP350 rugged smartphones to see if they can provide the services needed by the volunteers. The unit was designed specifically as a dedicated PTT smartphone, with a longer battery life and strong speaker, both of which are useful tweaks for first responders on the go. The newly developed LifeCompass 2.0 app suite will be fully integrated into the PTT units, while the Mobile Device Management (MDM) app will allow United Hatzalah to remotely add software upgrades at any time. It will also prevent the volunteers from downloading unauthorized apps from the Internet which may contain viruses, spyware, or malware components, ensuring that the devices will remain in perfect working order and the system will remain secure against hackers.

The new devices loaded with the specially designed software components are expected to reduce incident response time, optimize communication and data management and improve incident management. The new communication devices will also have a video transmission interface that will allow for streaming video or photos to be shared in real time between the volunteers in the field and the dispatcher, allowing the dispatchers to gain full visibility of the scene, which will enable them to effectively allocate resources and optimize incident management.

The rugged mobile device coupled with the LifeCompass 2.0 automated reporting feature provides a ‘volunteer-friendly “on-the-fly” report-generating feature that will allow volunteers to file the Ministry of Health-mandated incident reports quickly, and return to their daily routine without further delay.

However, the new platform and devices are not cheap. Purchasing 3,500 units to equip our current volunteers – as well as an additional 1,500 units to equip additional volunteers who will join United Hatzalah by the end of 2019 – and outfitting them with appropriate programming is expected to cost in the millions of dollars.

United Hatzalah urgently needs your help in order to help make this solution viable. The technology is in place, and the solution exists. But your help is needed to make it happen. Please help keep our network of volunteers effective and with the fastest EMS response time possible, so that we can save more lives.

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Raphael Poch works as the Senior PR and Marketing Manager at Aish, is a freelance journalist, volunteers as an EMT and lives with his family in Efrat.