Monticello, NY – Almost six months to the day after construction first began on its all new garage and dispatch center, Catskills Hatzalah celebrated Thursday the opening of its new facility with a gala ceremony attended by county legislators, town supervisors and local officials.
The new facility, located on Brickman Road in South Fallsburg is home to a state of the art dispatch center and features three ambulance bays as well as heated driveways, a necessity as the number of residents who live upstate throughout the year continues to rise annually.
“This new facility will help us provide year round service to local residents,” Rabbi Dovid Cohen, CEO of Hatzalah told VIN News. “While seventy five percent of our calls do come in during the summer, we get calls every day throughout the year and keeping our vehicles warm is a top priority.”
Until now, getting an ambulance out during the winter has been no small task as the ambulances were kept outside and volunteers have had to clear snow and ice off the vehicles, a time consuming task that took place in situations where delays could literally mean the difference between life and death. One Hatzalah member described an incident that took place approximately three years ago during the winter months.
“We got a call from Mountaindale one Shabbos morning on one of those bitter cold winter days,” recalled the volunteer. “It took us about twenty minutes to get there, which included time to scrape the ice and frost off the vehicle. By the time we got there the temperature in the back of the ambulance was only up to forty degrees, which was unsuitable for transporting the patient. We had to call a local ambulance because our vehicle was just too cold. That call was a turning point. It was when we realized that something had to be done.”
Construction for the building which is approximately 6,000 square feet in size, began on December 19th, and the facility is named in memory of the main donors, Pearl and Herman Altman. This winter’s warm weather and lack of snow contributed to the speedy completion of the facility will serve as a garage, a dispatch center and a crisis center.
“When Hurricane Irene struck last year, we had no place to sit down and mobilize,” explained Rabbi Cohen. “This will give us a staging area in case of an emergency, chas v’shalom.”
Catskills Hatzalah has thirteen vehicles located upstate during the summer season and those ambulances are spread out throughout the area in order to provide the best response to residents. Just two of those ambulances remain in the Catskills during the winter months.
“Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” added Rabbi Cohen. “That is our motto.”