Local residents are now trained and certified emergency responders who can volunteer in Israel when a crisis breaks out there.
Recently, 65 people attended the Emergency Volunteers Project’s training sessions at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach and Coral Springs Fire Academy. EVP is an Israeli organization that assembles a team of able-bodied volunteers who are trained to provide non-military support in Israel in the event of a crisis there.
During the training sessions, the volunteer trainees learned ways to help in a classroom setting and also did hands-on activities on the field, including strapping dummies on stretchers and light search and rescue exercise. Brian Strelitz, director of South Florida EVP, spoke highly of the trainees at a session.
“Everybody in the room wouldn’t be in the room if their heart wasn’t in the right place to begin with,” he said. “This organization is the only organization I know that gives people the opportunity to take their passion from the heart and move it to another realm — to utilize the mental and the physical tools necessary to take action beyond simply writing a check.”
Strelitz said that as a result of the EVP training, the trainees will be qualified to go over to Israel and be an asset as opposed to just being in the way. He also mentioned that the trainees got certified in a FEMA program and can also go anywhere in the United States in the case of an emergency such as a hurricane or earthquake.
“This training is not just the EVP training; it covers the requirements of the FEMA CERT program, which the EVP guys are certified to train,” Strelitz said. “They train from a CERT standpoint but then weave in the Israeli situation and Israeli realities into the program. For example, CERT doesn’t talk about rockets, CERT doesn’t talk about how you have 15 seconds to get into a bomb shelter, but those are realities in Israel today and they are woven into the CERT program out of necessity.”
Strelitz also mentioned that Israel today is preparing for an earthquake because historically and geologically, it’s on a major fault line and it’s really only a matter of time. Earthquake preparedness was part of the training’s focus.
“It’s a big part of CERT, as is all natural disaster preparedness, but because the possibility of a war and military crisis is pretty high in Israel, there is this additional dimension when it comes to preparedness in Israel, Strelitz added.
Trainees were interviewed at the session at Coral Springs Fire Academy.
“I’m an Israeli-American and I think this is a wonderful way for anyone who lives in the American Jewish community or American community in general to be able to help Israel with actions and not just words,” Linda Maurice, a Hollywood resident.
Gary Simon, a Pinecrest resident, said “I’m excited that Israel is taking command of the situation and reaching out to the diaspora Jews to be more organized in a time of need so we can help out.”
Billy Hirth, EVP’s director of operations/fire teams who was one of the trainers, was impressed with the turnout and the trainees’ enthusiasm.
“It’s a really solid group of people,” Hirth said.
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