Hearing a siren wail while walking through the streets, one may expect to see an ambulance whizzing by. But on the streets of Israel, it may take you a few seconds before you locate the source of the sound. Ambucycles, two-wheeled vehicles equipped with lifesaving emergency medical supplies, are the chosen vehicles to arrive on the site of an emergency in Israel.
Ambucycles are part of a unit belonging to United Hatzalah, a volunteer Emergency Medical Services organization. A United Hatzalah’s spokesperson explained to Breaking Israel News that a few years ago the organization noticed that one particular volunteer was often the first responder on the scene.
After investigation, they discovered that the volunteer’s motorcycle, which he used for work to make deliveries, was able to beat all volunteers driving motor vehicles. After this discovery, United Hatzalah established the innovative Ambucyle Unit in 2011 in order to fill the gap between the time of the incident and the arrival of ambulances.
The speed of a motor vehicle pales in comparison to the ambucycle. The streets of Israel, particularly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are often clogged with heavy traffic, making it difficult for vehicles to arrive on the scene in a timely fashion. The ambucycle’s ability to weave through cars and buses gives rescue personal immediate access to the site of the incident.
Eliminating traffic congestion, road closures, debris and parking, the response of an ambucycle medic averages at three minutes. In one emergency call, Channel 10 compared the response times of both an ambulance and an ambucyle. The ambulance took a full 15 minutes, while the ambucycle took just a mere minute and a half to arrive on the scene. These critical minutes can make a life or death difference.
Daniel Katzenstein, a spokesperson for United Hatzalah, told Breaking Israel News, “In critical emergencies the difference in getting through traffic between United Hatzalah ambucycls and standard ambulances is like the difference between Twitter and tomorrow’s paper.”
The ambucycle itself has a storage box attached in the back containing advanced lifesaving equipment. The box includes a complete trauma kit, an oxygen canister, a blood sugar monitor and a defibrillator. Essentially, the ambucyle has everything an ambulance has, except for a bed.
As one could imagine, these fully equipped lifesaving ambucycles are no small expense. Outfitting the motorcycle with medical equipment, maintenance and insurance totals $26,000. Currently, United Hatzalah has a fleet of 400 ambucyles. While these 400 ambucycles serve a critical need, United Hatzalah hopes to expand the unit in order to meet the demands of heavily populated cities.
In addition to reaching the scene of an emergency faster, ambucycles are much more accessible to paramedics. As all United Hatzalah paramedics are volunteers, drivers are often coming from work. Being able to park almost anywhere makes it much easier for volunteers to bring their ambucycles along with them wherever they go.
Paramedics are also equipped with Lifecompass technology. This technology enters each emergency call into the system, drawing a virtual perimeter around the incident that only alerts paramedics in the immediate vicinity. The navigating GPS technology, along with the ambucycle, contributes to the 90 second arrival rate of paramedics to the incident.
According to United Hatzalah, each paramedic responds to 40 calls a month which roughly adds up to 480 calls a year. Of these 480 calls, 25 percent (120 calls annually) are considered critical lifesaving situations. In three years, an ambucycle saves 360 lives. If not for these lifesaving motorcycles, this number would look very different.