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Beyond ambulances, Magen David Adom saves lives by providing superior training to its EMTs and by developing innovations like its Life Guardian Program and new smartphone app

Ella Lavon
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The shrieks of terror grew louder as Lina Cooperman, a volunteer Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency medical technician (EMT), reached the esplanade in Jaffa. There, minutes earlier, a terrorist went on a rampage, stabbing anyone in his vicinity and leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. We overheard on the radio that there was a stabbing and it was our call, recounted Cooperman. The first thing I noticed was that there were five or ten police cars and it was chaos. Absolute chaos.

MDA’s National Command and Control Center (Mamlam)

Anwar Srkaoi, another MDA volunteer EMT, arrived within minutes of being dispatched to the Jaffa clock tower, slipping through Tel Avivs notorious rush-hour traffic on his Medicycle, a 350cc motorcycle equipped with lifesaving equipment. Usually an iconic landmark that stands among gentle sea breezes and tourists, the tower now watched over innocent civilians bleeding out from stab wounds. I arrived at the clock tower square; it was crowded and people were yelling help me! in Hebrew and English, Srkaoi said. I saw a 32-year-old pregnant woman – I think American – who had been stabbed, and I turned the Medicycle lights toward her so that another EMT could treat her quickly and efficiently.

The Jaffa terrorist attack, which coincided with American Vice President Joe Bidens visit to Israel earlier this year, killed one man – American tourist Taylor Force – and injured ten more. There were similar, albeit less deadly, attacks that day in Jerusalem and Petah Tikvah too, a stark reminder that no place in Israel is immune from violence in the current climate. These attacks were part of the wave of stabbings, car-rammings, and shootings that have terrorized Israelis since September 2015, killing more than 40 people and injuring 500.

While thwarting all these attacks is nearly impossible, responding to them is not. And MDA, having developed world-renowned expertise in mass casualty response after years of dealing with suicide bombings during the Second Intifada, has saved hundreds of lives during this current wave of violence. It has done this by embracing efficient and tech-savvy innovations, while activating everyday Israelis in a revolutionary grass-roots movement. Donor support – critical because MDA doesnt receive Israeli government funding – helps make those lifesaving efforts possible.

Surveying the scene before they arrive

An MDA Life Guardian administers CPR before the paramedic arrives

When Israelis dial 1-0-1 to report emergencies, the calls are routed to the Mamlam, the Hebrew name for MDAs National Command and Control Center and the nerve center of its emergency-response apparatus. The Mamlam is an American-sponsored technological marvel that dispatches medics to any corner of Israel and then tracks their whereabouts in real time.

Now MDA has enhanced the center even further. In an effort to see the scene of an emergency and dispatch the most appropriate vehicles and personnel faster, MDA has upgraded its smartphone app to provide a live video feed from the scene, adding another powerful capability to what may already have been the worlds most sophisticated phone app for summoning EMS help.

With this new upgrade, users can mobilize Magen David Adom paramedics with one touch and enable dispatchers to see their exact location – even if the person calling isnt sure of their location because theyre lost or disoriented due to a medical issue. But with the new live-video feature, they can also show dispatchers the scene, so that critical medical decisions can be made as EMTs and paramedics are being dispatched. This can include whether to send a basic or advanced life-support ambulance, multiple ambulances, or even specialized vehicles, such as an armored or four-wheel-drive ambulance – or even a Mule, a small, special all-terrain vehicle used to evacuate injured or sick people from places like the shuk in Jerusalems Old City.

The app will allow callers to obtain immediate service at the push of a button, and give our dispatchers critical information about the location of an incident and even enable them to receive video broadcasts from the scene, said MDA Director-General Eli Bin. In the end, its all about providing not only a faster response to medical emergencies, but a better one – ensuring we have the best equipment and the best-qualified medics for a particular injury or ailment.

Saving lives once they arrive

For MDAs team of 15,000 paramedics and EMTs (87% of whom are volunteers), new technologies are essential to helping them reach the scene of an emergency. But once they arrive, their training is what ultimately saves a persons life.

MDA constantly refines and improves its training and protocols, making it a sought-after authority in the medical community, frequently training other Red Cross societies and first-responders from around the world. In fact, EMTs responding to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 cited their training with Magen David Adom a year earlier as instrumental in their rapid response to the terrorism incident.

Now, MDAs cutting-edge training is being dispatched in new ways to save lives. Earlier this year, MDA announced it was taking its already robust first-responder program to the next level by introducing the Life Guardian Program. The initiative adds another layer of responders by training or recertifying everyday Israeli citizens in CPR. Then, depending on their location, those newly minted Life Guardians receive notifications of an emergency via a mobile app and can rush to administer CPR or first aid until an MDA ambulance or Medicycle arrives.

This will add tens of thousands of first-responders who are on call at any moment from their homes or offices, said Bin. Now, theres an even greater possibility that the nearest first-responder wont just be down the street, but potentially just downstairs or right next door – an important consideration, given the rise of terrorism and the potential for something even more dire in the months or years to come.

Since the programs start, about 15,000 Israelis have registered, including hundreds of nurses and physicians from Hadassah Hospital. The cooperation between Hadassah and Magen David Adom is very extensive, said Hadassah cardiologist and Director General Professor Zeev Rotstein. Now we have the opportunity to deepen the cooperation by joining this database, which is the biggest of its kind in the country.

Donors making an impact

Donor support for MDA often comes in the form of lifesaving ambulances and Medicycles, a constant and critical need. In fact, Srkaoi – the EMT who treated the pregnant woman at the Jaffa terrorist attack – said at least three more people might have died had Medicycles not arrived on the scene.

But the unsung heroes of MDAs lifesaving work – superior, world-renowned training, technological innovations, and novel campaigns like the Life Guardian Program — are also the result of donor support. They may not be as noticeable as ambulances, but theyre just as critical in helping first-responders save lives.

As Israels only national emergency response organization, its our responsibility to provide Israelis with the best, most professional treatment possible, says Yoni Yagodovsky, MDAs director of international affairs. And we cant offer that kind of training without support from donors.

In this era of unpredictable and unprovoked attacks, the unique combination of innovation, MDA training, and donor support is helping keep Israelis alive and their families intact. 

For information about supporting American Friends of Magen David Adom, call +1-866.632.2763 or visit