Volunteers Supplement First Responders in Jersey City

By Michael Hill

Shina Goodin knows what she’s doing.

“I am saving lives,” she said.

Goodin is one of 85 volunteers in United Rescue. Jersey City Medical Center gives the volunteers 60 hours of medical and first aid training and it covers liability so the citizen responders can often respond to medical emergencies before first responders.

Paul Sosman supervises training and manages United Rescue Jersey City.

“As soon as they get on scene, stabilize the person, treat any life-threatening injuries, control bleeding and get any demographic information and then work in tandem with the EMS teams to ensure a smooth transport and treatment plan to the hospital,” he said.

The hospital’s dispatch center sends the volunteers only to safe scenes all over the city — in neighborhoods where they live — so they can get to medical emergencies literally in seconds when every second counts.

“I have no doubt we’re saving lives. On several circumstances, our volunteers have gotten on scene first. They’ve administered lifesaving care. Our EMS teams have been right behind them. They all work in collaboration with one another,” Sosman said.

Jersey City has among the best response times in the nation — four and a half minutes. With United Rescue, that’s been cut in half.

“We are, bar none, I could say the fastest response time in the entire country,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

“We’ve seen an exponential increase in the amount of lifesaving that we’ve done as a result of this program. We have strategically positioned our volunteers throughout the city in areas where it’s a little more difficult to get to and we’re ensuring that we’re covering our city so that we can prove that these seconds truly matter in the positive outcome of our patients,” Sosman said.

Jersey City is the first in the nation with United Rescue with others asking about it.

Fulop introduced this model to Jersey City after learning of it in Israel.

“It really is an amazing thing and I believe at some point it’s going to be common practice in cities across the country,” he said.

“So we actually work very closely with United Hatsala of Israel and their partner organization United Rescue of the United States and they’re a philanthropic organization that provides us with the resources to be able to launch this type of a program here in Jersey City,” said Jersey City Medical Center Executive Director of EMS Robert Luckritz.

United Rescue is looking for more volunteers in highrises where elevators can delay response times and college campuses where buildings often don’t have addresses.

United Rescue volunteers have responded to 2,500 calls since Dec. 1, 2015. They don’t arrive in ambulances, but they do walk in the door with the kind of equipment and medical know-how to make a difference.

“It makes me feel good. I love helping people and just to see the smiles on their faces, that’s my reward,” Goodin said.