Opinion: Scanners and Running to Accident Scenes

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By Rabbi Yosef Shubert, Matzav.com

[We have been asked by a number of Hatzolah volunteers to repost this article.]

We all strive to be mechanech our kids with good middos and sensitivity to others. Yet, there is one activity which many parents may never have considered objectionable, but actually creates seriouys problems for Hatzolah. Moreover, this activity also encourages negative middos.

Many children – and even some adults – in our communities have access to scanners. Matzav.com spoke to Hatzolah volunteers in Flatbush, Boro Park, Lakewood, the Five Towns, and Williamsburg and they have all attested to the fact that young members of these communities have access to a scanner, which is a device that enables the user to pick up communications of fire department, police department and ambulance dispatchers.

“For a child, or for one who wishes to hear the ‘hock’ or post information online, it is an appealing action-packed activity,” a Hatzolah members told Matzav.com. “He gets the immediate scoop on emerging situations, such as motor vehicle accidents, and races over to the scene, usually accompanied by an entourage of friends.”

“Often,” the volunteer added,” after arriving at the scene, the child or adult will begin to take pictures and videos to share with friends or to immediately post on the internet.”

For Hatzolah members, the congregated throngs are more than just a nuisance. They’re counterproductive, often getting in the way of help and almost always aggravating the victim’s family’s discomfort and anguish.

“That’s not to mention issues of privacy and decency,” the Hatzolah member told Matzav.com.

From a middos perspective, the use of scanners poses serious problems. Firstly, it encourages “yentishkeit” at the most base level. Perhaps worse, it relegates a fellow Jew’s moment of anguish to an object of curiosity and morbid fascination. Instead of gawking and being the first to know “the reid,” these children and adults who engage in such behavior should be encouraged or told outright to steer clear of the scene and instead say a kapittel of Tehillim on behalf of the victim. Lastly, as mentioned, there may be other sensitive information that can be picked up on scanners which may not be appropriate for children, or may not be public knowledge for adults and should not be publicized via photos and videos, online, or even simple conversation.

So please, for our good, for our communities’ good, for the Hatzolah volunteers…ban the scan. And if you see people are these scenes, tell them to leave. And if they are taking pictures that may reveal sensitive details or people’s identities, tell them to stop. Do what’s right.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. This is such an excellent article and should be sent to every school and hung up in every shul. And the rabbonim should enforce it.

  2. There is one thing to enjoy something if it doesn’t effect anyone, but in this case, there are people that call Hatzolah and dont want others to know. So then having fun should not be a reason to allow them to continue.

    P.S. I am a Hatzolah member and we get very many calls where we are told to shut off our lights and sirens when we come on their block. The reason is that the caller doesn’t want others to know that Hatzolah is coming to their house. If they see the ambulance, then it cant be helped, but why announce it?

  3. #3- there IS something wrong with it!!!!!!! its called privacy!! if C”VS something happened to you i dont think you would want it posted on the internet for the entire world to know!! most people want these things kept private.

  4. Something is seriously wrong with our teaching of midos when people think it’s entertaining to go to the sites of accidents and other Haztolah calls.

    What is entertaining about another person’s pain? Or death, for that matter. These misguided people should make tshuva – put themselves in the victim’s place.

    What happened to “bnei yisroel rachamim bnei rachamim?”

  5. I have one way to discourage them- websites shouldn’t print the pictures of these accident scenes. How many times is there a horrible tragedy lo aleinu, and then the pictures are posted for people to see. If these pictures would not be posted, perhaps that also would a deterant. And don’t you think it’s just as much yentishkeit to post those pictures?
    We can’t be hypocrites either!

  6. While I can understand (and agree with) the concerns in the letter, the writer needs to know a fundamental point: Fact is, most people who listen to scanners are “macher wannabes” who get their jollies out of being cool and listening to the hock, then showing up to local calls. Your letter won’t help one iota, because this is a sickness that these people have.
    Hatzolah (and shomrim, etc) are idolized by frum kids, and the “pull” to know and listen to radio chatter is just irresistable.

    Besides, don’t mainstream blogs listen to scanners so they, too, can have the latest hock? Seems a bit hypocritical…

  7. I’m sorry to say this but it keeps all these
    kids and teenagers from doing other things
    that they shouldn’t be doing. I understand
    that its not the right thing to go to hatzolah
    and shomrim but it keeps them out of trouble.

  8. No. 11

    Keeping out of trouble? Getting in the way of Hatzolah and the police *is* trouble. It’s also endangering lives.

    Learning to think other people’s tragedies are entertainment is trouble – big trouble.

  9. Want to stop the “hock”? Here’s an idea: Stop hawking Hatzolah trading cards, mini ambulances and other “kewl” Hatzolah paraphernalia to our kids.

  10. once, an older person who lives down my block, relative died,. due to his age and health when they informed him , they had hatzalah men waiting outside. one of my neighbors heard the address on the scanner without hearing what happened. he rushed to the scene and could not figure out why the hatzalah men where just waiting outside……
    but scanners are not completely bad, what is wrong with listening to jfk airport etc.

  11. Hatzolah is the best! They save lives and do tremendous chasadim. It would, however be very helpful if they practiced a little more confidentiality. We had reason to call Hatzolah recently for a grandchild. The next day we got six phone calls from people to ask how the child was doing. When we asked how they knew about the incident {which happened in the middle of the night} we were told that they have friends in Hatzolah and that they told them. In addition they also gave a diagnosis to all, as to what was wrong with the child. There needs to be some additional confidentiality training. As much as we appreciated everything that Hatzolah did, we did not appreciate and were quite disturbed by the broadcasting. That is very unfair, poor judgment and extremely unprofessional.

  12. “There is nothing wrong with it if you enjoy it.”

    #3, if C”V it happened to you, that you needed Hatzoloh,

    would you like it if people stood there gawking at your tragedy and taking pictures to post for everyone to see? What has happened to privacy and modesty?

    The statement above sounds like the typical answer that people give when they want to sin, and they want an excuse to do it.

  13. I understand both sides of the argument,before i joined hatzolah i had a radio for the simple reason to hear whats going on and to know the “HOCK”,you will always have people like that and i’m not saying it is right

  14. #10, expensive proposition (retrofit all radios, replace those that can’t en/decrypt). It also is not 100% reliable and can result in disrupted communications or a member whose radio stops working.

    I believe RH tried it a few years ago and had to abandon it.

  15. I am sick and tired of the loshon horah that goes on here. Nobody runs to scenes and nobody enjoys accidents and nobody is sending out any private info about other peoples tzores.

    As for Hatzoloh giving out and discussing information it’s an outright lie because we just wouldn’t do it and secondly it’s against the law. HIppa regulations are so strict that if anyone talked about another persons health we can get sued for millions of dollars and Hatzoloh would be responsible.

    I never saw anyone running around with the way it is described in the article. I think most of the article is an exageration

  16. Although I agree with most of Rabbi Shubert’s points, as anything that impedes the emergency responder’s efforts or negatively affects the victim’s family must be avoided, this is another case of us parents needing to teach our children the right way to use the many tools and conveniences of the modern world. The challenge is not limited to scanners; for better or for worse our children live in a world where simply banning such items may be counterproductive, whereas educating and channeling our children properly in their use can provide great benefits. Regarding showing up at the scene of an incident they hear about on a scanner, the same proper behavior should be expected from them as if it was a scene they happened upon while walking somewhere. But to ban scanners is not the answer. My son used to carry a scanner, and as a ten-year old was B”H able to intercept and direct lost Hatzoloh members to a house they were seeking in an obscure Catskill area we vacationed in. Getting Hatzoloh members to an incident quicker can ‘save an Olam [world]’, we must be able to use the tools of our modern world to do this, and we are responsible to teach our children in their proper use as well.


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