Detroit volunteer rescue service takes model from Israel

Feb 18, 2016

Row of "ambucycles" carrying emergency response aid in Israel.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There’s an innovative idea from Israel that might be taking root in Detroit.

The idea is to train people in the community to respond to emergency calls.

“And they usually can get there much more quickly because they live next door or across the street, in the same apartment building, whatever the case may be, and get there before the professional EMTs arrive,” says Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes.

In his column for the Detroit News, Howes is also quick to point out that the effort called United Rescue is not intended to be some back-door attempt to privatize emergency response or kill union jobs. “This is a way to augment emergency response in the city of Detroit and the city is very open to the idea.”

And now there's talk of setting up a pilot program in Detroit. Howes says this effort is happening all across Israel and he says just 4 months ago United Hatzalah helped set up a United Rescue in New Jersey.

Howes writes in his column, this isn’t a done deal.

United Hatzalah’s co-founder, Dovie Maisel, is in Detroit this week to meet with community leaders, representatives of the mayor’s office and would-be funders to explain the program, answer questions and gauge the chances for funding a likely $1.5 million annual budget entirely from private donations. 

He tells Stateside that Mayor Duggan is looking into legal questions particularly around security and legal protection from liability for volunteers.

Listen to the full interview below to find out who’s behind this effort and what it might mean for Detroit.