Capt. Scott Goldstein of the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company and Jason Broth, a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the department, are no strangers to helping those in need.
“It’s a matter of giving back and doing what we love,” says Broth, a 25-year PVFC veteran. “It’s a lifestyle.”
That penchant for giving back is one of the reasons why Broth and Goldstein decided to become part of the Emergency Volunteers Project, an organization that trains and credentials emergency first-responders and civilian workers to deploy to Israel during a time of crisis or natural disaster.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, senior officers from the Israeli Defense Forces’ search-and-rescue teams, EVP trainers and medical workers from Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center will be in Westminster to conduct a one-day training for firefighters, doctors, physician assistants, nurses, paramedics and community volunteers, which would result in the Baltimore-Ashkelon Emergency Response Team. (Ashkelon is Baltimore’s Israeli sister city.)
“This training will give us the skills and credentials needed to become fully integrated with Israeli firefighters, medical professionals and civilians,” says Goldstein, EVP team leader for the Mid-Atlantic area, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. “Once the training is complete, those who participated will be ready to deploy to Israel during an emergency at a moment’s notice.”
In Time of Need
Founded in 2009, the EVP has trained nearly 1,000 emergency volunteers in nine states. It was created to serve as backup for Israeli first-responders during a crisis and as a way to help protect Israeli citizens.
“There are eight million people in Israel and 1,500 firefighters,” says Goldstein, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 32 years. “To put that in perspective, in Baltimore County we have 1 million people and 2,500 firefighters. Israel has no mutual aid and no one to call during her time of need.”
Since its inception, the organization has initiated more than 65 deployments, including four emergency deployments. The most recent deployment was last November to help fight massive wildfires in the Jewish state. During that time, a dozen other nations sent air tankers, but the United States was the only country to send firefighters.
“Here [in Israel], people are amazed at the selflessness of EVP volunteers,” Adi Zahavi, EVP international CEO and founder, wrote to Jmore via email. “They are astonished to discover that they are not alone in a hostile world and there are many, many people who care for and love Israel and who will do all they can to support it.”
Goldstein and Broth, who participated in a past training, were among the EVP volunteers who went to Israel right after last Thanksgiving and spent 10 days assisting in any way they could.
“A big thing we did was bring relief to guys that were on for 24 [hours], home for an hour and then on for another 24,” says Broth. “These guys looked like they had been through the ringer and were so happy to just take a nap.”
During their stay in Israel, Broth and Goldstein’s assignments varied from typical calls like house or brush fires to medical rescues to being sent to the West Bank. “We spent the day in Ofra on the West Bank,” Goldstein says. “The Israeli officials in charge paid very close attention to Intel, and I wasn’t at all concerned about our safety.”
Says Broth: “They were very protective and their intelligence is incredible.”
Because of their prior training in the U.S., Broth and Goldstein were able to deploy to Israel immediately upon request. “Everything was lined up prior to our deployment,” says Broth. “The Israelis knew what certifications we were coming with and knew they could safely drop us off in the thick of things.”
Just Like Family
This month’s training will be the second one to take place in the Baltimore area; the first was in 2014 and resulted in a response team of 25.
The Pikesville and Chestnut Ridge volunteer fire companies, Carroll County Public Safety Training Center and the Patapsco Natural Stone Quarry in Marriottsville have made significant contributions to help with the upcoming training, in conjunction with a $20,000 grant from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Committee.
“To me, this is the perfect way to show support to Israel by making a contribution in the sense of sweat equity,” says Gail Green, funding chair of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership. “This project allows us to put boots on the ground and stand shoulder to shoulder with those in Israel at a time the country is most vulnerable.”
The training — which will take place at the Carroll County Public Training Facility from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 — kicks off with an orientation of the command structure in Israel and how to deal with the language barrier. Trainers will then break the group into fire professionals, medical personnel and civilians.
Firefighters will learn how to deploy in smaller teams and work alongside their Israeli counterparts; medical personal will receive temporary licensing to practice medicine in Israel; and civilian workers will receive CPR and first-aid training.
“The end of the training will culminate with us going to a quarry that will simulate a building collapse,” says Goldstein. “Civilian workers will have the opportunity to assist in removing patients from the rock pile.”
If called over to Israel, civilian volunteers will provide support in areas where military reserves have been called up for duty. During an emergency situation, EVP will send over a team of five individuals at a time and they will stay in Israel for a maximum of two weeks.
If more help is required, the team will switch out and another group of five will head to Israel. Those who participate in the training are not required to go to Israel during a crisis situation; it just provides them with the opportunity if their schedules permit.
“I would love to see people come to the training,” says Green. “It’s important to note you don’t have to be a firefighter, EMT or doctor. This is open to anyone. If you want to help in the community, there is a place for you — any kind of hand helps in an emergency.”
It’s an experience that stays with volunteers long after they return home, say Goldstein and Broth.
“It really is a family,” says Broth. “I’m still in touch with many of the guys we are working with side by side. It’s a brotherhood, and those in Israel welcome us with open arms. Fighting fire is universal.”
For information, visit associated.org/emergencyteam.
Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Top photo: Jason Broth and Capt. Scott Goldstein (top row, far left) stand with their Israeli unit last November and Moshe Fadlon (center), the mayor of the central Israeli coastal city of Herzliya. (Provided by Capt. Scott Goldstein)
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