Monday, Jun 10, 2024

Summer Safety

In an exclusive interview with Catskills Hatzolah coordinators, Yated shares what everyone should know in this post-pandemic summer in Upstate New York.

Due to the dramatic increase in year-round residents as well as summer development homeowners, Catskills Hatzolah has increased its upstate presence as well. A full-time paramedic is now on call all year round and stationed at the Raleigh Hotel.

Catskills Hatzolah remains committed to the safety and security of the community. “We now have three full-time ambulances with four-wheel drive stationed upstate all year long,” say Catskills Hatzolah coordinators. They estimate that about 500 heimishe families now call the Catskills their year-round home, which includes the community in nearby Bloomingburg. “We’ve become incredibly busy upstate, as more people are spending the winter in this area.”

Construction of new summer homes is booming, with close to 200 homes being built in South Fallsburg alone and many more elsewhere. Fifteen Hatzolah ambulances are stationed upstate during the summer and hundreds of members are on call, prepared to assist the community as first responders to any and all emergencies. Five Catskills coordinators — R’ Boruch Gips, R’ Yidel Feig, R’ Yom Tov Malek, R’ Eli Serebrowski, and R’ Yankel Richter — work tirelessly to make it happen.

Check Pool Perimeter

Catskills Hatzolah coordinators wish to remind the public about the importance of surveying the perimeter of the pool area of all camps and colonies at the start of every summer season.

“This is really important,” explains R’ Gips. “Over the winter, the earth can settle or the snow can cause the ground to sink. That’s why people should walk around the perimeter of the fenced-in area, checking carefully if there are any holes or depressions that a small child can fit through.”

Last year, a two-year-old was able to climb into the pool area through a small hole, despite the fact that the pool was properly fenced and gated. A walk-through at the start of the season is imperative to determine whether there are any gaps, and those should be repaired immediately.

Share Emergency Information

With travel restrictions easing, many people are planning vacations while their children are safe and secure in camp. But emergencies do happen, and Catskills Hatzolah may need to reach parents or guardians to obtain their authorized consent for treatment. “Remember to inform the camp or colony that you will be out of town and possibly out of reach,” says R’ Gips. “Leave an emergency number of a family member or a friend who will know how to reach you or who can make medical decisions on your behalf.”

Motorized Scooters

Motorized scooters have become popular among young children, but the dangers are real. If it’s impossible to prevent the use of electric scooters, parents should insist that their children wear a helmet and be aware of basic safety rules while riding.

Hiking Safety

Hiking can be a healthy and enjoyable activity, but hikers can lose their way or become confused and disoriented. Catskills Hatzolah coordinators urge the community to prepare properly when planning a hike. “Bring along three things,” says R’ Gips. “Drinking water, a compass, and working flashlights.”

Most importantly, cellphones should be fully charged. “If you get lost,” says R’ Gips, “don’t call your family and don’t call Hatzolah. Call 911 immediately. They can triangulate your position and track you down better than we can. Then you can call us.” Triangulation can only occur when batteries are charged, so minimize the use of the phone and refrain from making unnecessary and lengthy calls.

Hospital Visitation

Nobody plans to spend time in the hospital while vacationing upstate, but occasionally it becomes necessary.

Visitation restrictions in local area hospitals due to the pandemic have loosened considerably but there are still some rules. Just two family members will be allowed to see patients between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Please note that the Middletown Hospital is now called the Garnet Health Medical Center.

Hatzolah Catskill coordinators urge the community to cooperate with hospital officials and obey all visitation regulations.

Test Results, Lab Work, And Updated Meds

Hatzolah Catskills coordinators urge anyone with underlying health issues to bring any recent and updated lab work, EKGs, and test results upstate to avoid unnecessary testing or hospitalizations.

All medications should be current and unexpired. Specifically, nitroglycerine, a potentially lifesaving medication, has a short shelf life and will be ineffective past its expiration date.

Adults and children with hypersensitivity may experience an episode of anaphylaxis, which is a severe reaction to a bee or insect sting caused by an allergy. An Epi-pen (epinephrine auto-injector) can literally save their lives. Counselors and camp nurses should be aware of which children are allergic and should keep an Epi-pen available at all times. Never leave an Epi-pen in an overheated car as it may become discolored and lose effectiveness. If an Epi-pen turns brown, discard immediately.

Catskills Hatzolah advises those with high-risk medical conditions who may need special attention to reconsider traveling upstate in the summer. It is difficult to duplicate the personal care and attention of a private doctor who is familiar with one’s medical history in case of an emergency.

As a general rule, never hide a medical condition from camp staff. Children with all kinds of conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, can thrive and flourish in camp — but the nurse and head staff should be aware that the situation exists. Nobody likes surprises, especially when it comes to the health of the campers.

Calling Hatzolah

If you need to contact Hatzolah in the Catskills, call their New York City number, 718-387-1750 or 212-230-1000, and clearly state your location. Calmly explain why you are calling. Then, send someone down to the road to greet the ambulance with a flashlight, even if it’s Shabbos. It’s often hard to find remote colonies, especially after dark. Having someone waiting at the road can save precious moments.

There are camps and bungalow colonies that lock their gates over Shabbos so no vehicles can enter. That’s generally a good idea. But if somebody needs Hatzolah and time is of the essence, they need to respond quickly. Make sure to arrange for someone to unlock gates before they arrive.

When calling Hatzolah, be very specific about which camp or bungalow colony you are calling from as there are often different locations with similar names. Also specify which town you are located in. If there are multiple entrances, specify which entrance to use.


Tick bites are quite common in the Catskills, due to the many deer in the area. A personal physician should be contacted for advice on how to remove a tick and whether to treat the patient. Contact a rov or dayan on the proper procedure if a tick is found on Shabbos.

Be Safe!

Catskills Hatzolah is committed to the good health and safety of the community — but it’s incumbent on community members to partner with Hatzolah by remaining vigilant at all times. “If everyone does their best to behave responsibly and to supervise their children at all times,” says R’ Gips, “then we can hopefully look forward to a safe, happy, and healthy summer.”



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