Reader’s Matzav: The Buffer Trend – Will They Ever Grow Up?


hatzolahDear Matzav,

When I was young, the dream of my life was to have a Walkie-Talkie. My Afikomen request was forever a two-way radio. I imagined myself communicating with my friends on radios – impersonating police officers, Hatzolah members and other officials. I watched as pal after pal got the ever wishful gift, yet my wish never materialized.

I grew up, and the wish disappeared with time. As I matured and entered my teenage years, I watched as my acquaintances upgraded their Walkie-Talkies to scanners. Whether it was a Ham radio or just another scanner set to a frequency, they felt bigger than ever as they monitored each major incident or action scene. I thought of it as another immature trend that will stop with time; as trends come and go, I figured that this too will soon be gone.

I was wrong. They are still buffing and monitoring the emergency channels as in their adolescence. They yet upgraded their scanners with the flux of technology and it has now become Twitter, Blackberry and other means of modern communication instead. I was shocked to learn that there are even websites dedicated to “buffers.” These associates never grew up and remained “wanna-bees.” Some of them even went on to set up organizations based on buffing calls. I started thinking of it as more than just another phenomenon; it became a disgusting trend that has to be stopped.

I always had the fear to call Hatzolah. Who doesn’t?! Everyone wishes best for their family and prays for the wellbeing of their loved ones. Although we’re all grateful that Hatzolah exists, nevertheless, we fear the phone call. However, my scare is more than just fear – it is intense fright; I shudder to think of the day that I will have to place the call. Within seconds, thousands of individuals will get the message with my address and situation to their phones. Minutes later a post will be posted on buffing websites — documented forever. Gone is the privacy; gone is the confidentiality. People with no means of assistance will talk about the motor vehicle accident that had me involved, and gossip will fill spread regarding the incident. I tremble to think about it, yet I know that hundreds and perhaps thousands of people have the same fear – materialized – every day.

The trend is even more troubling when tragedy strikes. Within seconds of a casualty, rumors fill the streets with incorrect facts and information. The response isn’t one of remorse and grief rather gossip and blather. Theories originate and opinions become facts as the bereaved family looks in horror. Their indescribable shame and humiliation is public as those buffers witness confidential information. Emergency codes and terminology are interpreted to fit their thesis, as the deceased’s name is disgraced forever. While the authorities investigate the matter, the buffers already have concluded what has happened. The tragedy passes on, but the wound is there forever. A new tragedy strikes and another family is affected while the former are still reeling from shock.

While the poskim maintain that we give a person the benefit of doubt, particularly in the case of a factual suicide, the buffers don’t. They literally enjoy talking about other peoples’ sorrow as the gossip spreads. My question is this: would these buffers want the same? Would they want the same disingenuous facts out in public when it’s themselves or their loved one? This is a dangerous trend that must be stopped in time; too many families have already suffered the fate of “buffer stories,” and it’s time for them to grow up!

Disgusted With Buffers


  1. Why discuss loosers and or overgrown babies who become the name of fame by broadcasting the news?

    What purpose do any of those seeking to fulfill their self esteem by the weakness or vulnerability of others?

    Rather think of yourself as the one who was merited to be tested !! (I hope you pass with flying colors)

  2. As a dispatcher for Hatzoloh, I find, the TOP concern people calling us have, is not about their loved ones, etc. It is “please come quietly”, “only one person, no noise”, etc. 75% of callers have this intense fear of the shame and perceived consequences “a hatzaloh call” in front of their houses will bring them.

    While I should not be putting them on the same line, both buffers must tone down, and we at Hatzaloh need to take a better lesson and think hard why so many of our callers feel we will fail them at this. While we pride in excelling in all fields, SOMETHING we are doing wrong, and must be more sensitive to the feelings of our callers.

    Unfortunately, there are still some in our ranks who’s behavior is not much better then those who buff us. Remember: Turn off your lights on the block; approach quietly and low key and keep your mouths tightly shut.

  3. Buffing is legal in the USA (in Canada and Israel it is not) and is human nature. People want to know what is going on in their town. If its right is another question, but some people feel they need to know why five ambulances past their avenue ion the last hour.

    (PS: check it out: most hatzoloh members were buffers before they officially upgraded from being a wanna be..)

  4. Rabbi Shlomo Miller said, being that you may be mechalell shabbos if it’s for the comfort of the choleh, Kol shekein that you may not make him uncomfortable by standing around when
    the ambulance takes him to the hospital etc.

  5. to #5 … it is human nature to look down the block when five ambulances pass and maybe even check the local mainstream news feed on line to see if there is a major disaster. But a single ambulance … most people mind their own business (unless it is a neighbor you know, in which case you might walk over and offer to help). It is not normal human nature to buy special equipment to monitor emergency services and spy on our fellow citizens.

  6. Sometimes a “buffer” is first on the scene, is qualified and renders aid till Hatzolah gets there, and then quietly leaves, allowing Hatzolah to receive public thanks and credit.

  7. As an EMT for 12 years I can confirm that this is a very important topic. I agree with “hatzoloh dispatcher” that we MUST emphasize the PRIVACY of our patients. This harms patients and their families tremendously. “Buffing” has existed long before Hatzolah was even created. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and be aggressive on this issue. As a friend once told me, it’s time to BAN THE SCAN!

  8. I understand what the author of this OP-ED id trying to say, but I believe he is misleading. There is never a time that a “buffing” group will send out an actual address to a call. The only time there is a name even given to a call might be upstate where they will list the Colony.

    As a seasoned Hatzolah memeber, I still cannot understand how someone feeling ill brings shame to their family. Why does it bother you so much that someone knows that your daughter has a high temp? Why is there this sense of secrecy that no one should know why your going to the hospital? WHO CARES!!

    I can’t even begin to describe how a Hatzolah member feels when we get to a home for a serious situation, and the family members are more concerned about “no lights and sirens on the block”, then the actual person who is sick.

    I personally try to shut my lights and sirens when I get to the block of a call, but don’t abuse Hatzolah members by complaining about their use of lights on your block. We don’t work for you, and we usually are in middle of our own lives. When I jump up in middle of the night, because someone calls Hatzolah, I’ll gladly come, but don’t start telling me to close my lights, you didn’t mind me waking up all the neighbors as I passed through red lights with my sirens on.

  9. I hate to “enlighten” you but the buffers send names and addresses constantly. I’ve seen it more that once. The author of this OP-ED has a good point that should be taken care of. Yes, private stories are confidential, if you don’t understand it – perhaps you’ve been to too few calls (or never experienced one at home) or you’re just another “wanna-be” pretending to be an Hatzolah member. The latter is what I believe, because the Hatzolah members that I know understand and respect one’s privacy and deals with it in an appropriate manner.

  10. “Rebbetzin Hockstein”; you are wrong.

    Hatzoloh comes VERY fast to real calls, and if it took 2 minutes, in most cases the patient will not be hurt by it, unless someone who is not experienced starts messing with the scene. If someone who is trained and happens upon the scene, that’s perfect. But to use a scanner and chase WITH the emergency personal, I can tell you first hand, this is one of the major problems hatzoloh members face, not least of which that PD gets upset of an out of control situation, (and the buffers usually do NOT leave!!) and pt. being harmed by too many people around. (even hatzoloh has policies on members showing up to major scene’s un-dispatched, which unfortunately is almost never enforced.)

  11. Jack, you obviously are not a REAL member, or just a “summer season” member. Its easy to see you dont have the real feel for it.

    I dont think you will ever understand, but, firstly, its not always fever. there are children and adults with histories of illness, which they rather not share with their neighbors. People by nature are very shy with illnesses. for e.g. a teenage girl fainting in shul or school with usually be very ashamed of it. same with a young woman who just lost a pregnancy, etc. There is a reason there are strict privacy laws, and even in non Jewish EMS, you can easily be dismissed for discussing calls.

    And if you see a member leaving on their lights, report it to a coordinator, since it DOES harm the pt. its basically announcing on the highest tone what is happening in your house. People HAVE the right to complain about it. If you cant understand this and argu with the caller for complaining about this, you obviously should look for another way to help yidden. Hatzoloh is not what you are cut for. Sorry.

  12. If you don’t know why people are concerned, then you should think hard about it. Talk to some nurses, physicians, or other medical personnel who have worked with patients in a hospital setting. They spend a lot more time with patients and can better appreciate patients’ fears. In the hustle and bustle of pre-hospital EMS, there are a lot of lessons that are not always learned because things happen so quickly. The Torah and basic derech eretz demand that medical care be done in a tzanua way. Also, I suspect that your definition of “seasoned” Hatzolah member might be different than mine. Those of us who have been doing this for a while and have worked in a hospital setting with patients know these concerns first-hand. And who said we’re just talking about calls with a high temp like you describe? A “seasoned” EMT would know that we get many, many calls that are embarrassing to patients and their families. If you have read my comment and still think people like me are overreacting, then maybe it’s time for you to take a break from Hatzolah, think things over, and maybe speak to a rav. But most of all, anyone who takes the attitude “we don’t work for you” has no business on Hatzolah or any other patient care position. Try putting that slogan on the next Hatzolah fundraising flyer and see how many contributions we get.

  13. If we’re so concerned about privacy, why do some of the “frum” websites feel the need to post photos of accident scenes? Where’s the outrage?

  14. Mien tiere kinder, we have only ourselves to blame for this apparent lack of privacy. If we were’nt so obsessed with our privacy we would’nt need it so much.(good chop no?)