Saving 40,000 Lives in Under 3 Minutes

By Brandon Hook 11-22-2013

How can we save 40,000 lives in under three minutes?

That question served as the provocative title of Israeli medic Eli Beer's TEDMED talk. Beer is the founder and president of Israel-based United Hatzalah (which is Hebrew for "rescue"), a rapid response team of 2,000 skilled volunteers — EMTs who range professionally from "expensive lawyers to people who sell fish or shoes," he said to CNN Health.

Beer answered his question this way, "The average response time of a traditional ambulance is 12 to 15 minutes — we reduce it to less than three minutes. Our response is the fastest in the world. We call our approach a lifesaving flash mob. On motorcycles, traffic doesn't stop us. Nothing does."

The volunteers make record time in a fleet of small cars, ambu-cycles, ambu-tractors, and ambu-boats — all equipped with heart defibrillators, breathing tubes, burn wraps, and maternity kits. According to CNN Health, the volunteers usually get to the scene first, treating and stabilizing patients until ambulances arrive for transport. Each volunteer handles an average of 60 calls a month.

But perhaps what is most staggering about the organization is not the numbers, but the people — both the volunteers and the people those same volunteers help.

"Our volunteers are Jews and non-Jews, Muslims and Christians — we help one another by saving lives," Beer told CNN Health. "Judaism teaches when you save someone's life you're actually saving the world because you just saved the whole world for this one person and teh generation to come. People want the satisfaction of being part of this — and they sacrifice a lot to do that."

Muslims, Jews, Christians, and non-religious folk alike all rallying around saving lives in the Middle East — that's something you don't see everyday. But then again, neither is a reaction time of 90 seconds, which is Beer's next goal. 

Check out his TED talk below.

Brandon Hook is the Web and Multimedia Associate at Sojourners.

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