Think fighting fires is dangerous? Try doing it in a war zone.
Spurred by the violence in Israel, a dozen firefighters and emergency responders from across the United States have deployed to the embattled country, where they are supporting their Middle East colleagues on the front lines as part of the Emergency Volunteers Project.
The volunteers in Israel hail from California to New York. They are not paid, but are covered by insurance through the Emergency Volunteers Project and the Israeli fire services.
Rockville resident Robert Katz said his decision to drop everything and fly halfway around the world was easy.
“It’s really about people helping people when they’re under attack,” he said. “They don’t care anything about [the demographics] of victims. Whether they’re trapped in a car, having a heart attack, in a burning building, we’ll lend assistance.”
“I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate support and help save lives in Israel than what these volunteers are doing,” said Adi Zahavi, director of EVP, from his command post in Jerusalem. “At a time when people are canceling trips to Israel and Israelis wonder where their friends are, these volunteers help lift our spirits.”
Robert Katz, who leads training and recruiting in the DC area for EVP, stressed the importance of helping their brother- and sister- firefighters in Israel. “In the long term, it also makes us better emergency response professionals with multiple high-impact situational experience,” he said as he deployed. “The exposure and knowledge we’re gaining by working shoulder-to-shoulder with our Israeli counterparts will also help us better serve our communities back home.”
“In times of emergency disasters, most countries have a contingency plan that involves outside resources. Israel’s situation is unique in that it does not have that kind of relationship with her regional neighbors. Therefore EVP was created as a solution for the massive shortage in man power,” said Eitan Chernoff, a certified medic and Israeli spokesperson for EVP.
For Wade Baker of Arkansas, a trainer in search and rescue, the EVP program was “an amazing opportunity to learn how Israel acts during emergency response. Israel has an international reputation in emergency and aid response—it always and immediately reaches out, even to nations that are hostile to her. I believe it’s our turn to help out the Jewish nation.”