Jerusalem, 22 September, 2022 (TPS) — A delegation of Israeli medical and psychological experts from the emergency medical service (EMS) organization United Hatzalah, departed on Thursday en route to Puerto Rico to provide medical aid and care to residents affected by Hurricane Fiona and the resulting floods.
The first major hurricane of this year’s Atlantic season has killed at least five people across the Caribbean, including two in Puerto Rico.
The Israeli team, which is comprised of four members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit (PCRU) as well as two emergency medical technicians (EMTs), will be tasked with providing psychological and emotional stabilization as well as medical care to residents hit by the hurricane in various communities in the southern part of the island.
“After contacting several community leaders in Puerto Rico and assessing needs based on their reports as well as other local sources, we decided to send a delegation to provide residents with emotional and psychological support and treat any medical issues that we find along the way,” said Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah Dov Maisel. “Our Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit has a lot of expertise in responding to disasters and we have seen that this aspect of treatment, focusing on mental health, is often overlooked in disaster areas.”
The PCRU has responded to several major incidents around, including responding to the Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting in Pittsburgh, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the Surfside Building Collapse, and most recently, the war in Ukraine and the ensuing refugee crisis in the neighboring countries.
PCRU Director Avi Marcus explained that “since the unit’s creation in 2016, we have taken the tools developed by leading psychologists and therapists dealing with the treatment and prevention of psychological trauma and acute stress reactions, and created a series of protocols and on-site treatments that can be used anywhere and at any time.”
“Our goal is to help people regain a sense of control and build support networks together. By doing so we aim to alleviate the sensations of loneliness and helplessness, which are two leading causes of trauma-related stress. These are things that can debilitate even the most resilient of people and our goal is to communicate to those affected by the storm, and the ensuing floods, that they are not alone, and that they can reassert control over their own situations,” he said.
“We have learned a lot about how to provide psychological first aid and emotional stabilization since the unit was founded,” added Maisel. “This knowledge comes from our experiences both abroad as part of international missions, and here at home in Israel. In Israel, our teams regularly assist people suffering trauma after experiencing day-to-day medical emergencies, as well as those experiencing or witnessing terror attacks and missile strikes. We are now bringing this knowledge and experience to help the people of Puerto Rico. We hope to work with those most affected by the fallout from the hurricane and we have one clear message, you are not alone. We stand with you and we are coming to help.”
Currently, there is no end date set for the mission, but the volunteers have left their families knowing that they will be missing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.