If you have a heart attack in Manhattan, it takes about 7½ minutes for first responders to arrive on the scene. If it happens in Jersey City, you only need to wait 2½ minutes.
It’s a difference that saves lives. Delays of just seconds can be fatal for victims of strokes, heart attacks, choking and bleeding.
The Post last Sunday reported that a shortage of FDNY paramedics and EMTs has led to increased response times — an average seven-minute, 33-second wait for the most life-threatening emergencies, a potentially deadly delay.
Across the Hudson, we have fought this problem with a revolutionary system that pairs up volunteers with full-time medics using an Uber-style app.
When a medical-emergency call comes into the city’s 911 center, our United Rescue app locates the nearest available volunteer.
We immediately route an ambulance to the scene, as always, but simultaneously dispatch a volunteer — who’s usually close enough to simply run over on foot. Some hop on special United Rescue bicycles, some drive, some even skateboard.
On Jan. 2, United Rescue volunteer Yonatan Guigue got the alert of a “man down” on a main avenue in Jersey City Heights. Three blocks away, he dashed over, arriving in under four minutes and found the victim not breathing and without a pulse. He began CPR and with the help of a passing police officer, used his defibrillator until the man regained a pulse. When the medics arrived and took over, it became clear he had suffered a heart attack. He lived.
Volunteer Greg Kyle was a few blocks away when he got word that a 48-year-old woman had gone into cardiac arrest inside her home on Christmas Day. He hopped in his car and drove to the woman’s house in just under two minutes. She was lying on the kitchen floor with her partner nearby. “I checked, there was no breathing and no pulse,” said Kyle, who immediately started chest compressions before the first-responders arrived. She survived.
United Rescue responds to an average 100 calls a week. Since the system launched in 2015, we have logged a total of 10,000 calls, and the app has recorded an average response time of 2½ minutes.
Before they can become United Rescue volunteers, candidates take an eight-week, 65-hour course taught by the Jersey City Medical Center EMS staff, then spend about 25 hours with EMS crews on ambulances for on-the-job experience.
Our citizen first-responders may be eating lunch, working or sleeping, but they always keep the United Rescue app handy. When the call comes in, the volunteers accept it whenever they can, drop what they’re doing — employers have not objected — and rush to the victim’s side, carrying a small backpack with basic life-support equipment.
Our system is based on United Hatzalah, pioneered in Israel, which deploys a force of volunteers who answer 1,100 calls a day — rescuing about 100 people daily — in a country with a population about the same size as New York City’s.
In New York, Hatzalah volunteer ambulances provide a similar rapid response in a few Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods around the city, but on a smaller scale.
We have one of the most densely populated cities in the country with similar challenges to NYC — high-rises, traffic congestion and mass transit. What we did in Jersey City can be done in New York. Anything that saves lives is worth trying.