The Beginnings of Easton EMS (1947-1970)
- Police Chief Edward S. Knight campaigned to procure first ambulance in Easton. The Easton Ambulance Association was incorporated May 8, 1946. Our first president was Mr. Charles Rauschkolb and our first ambulance, a Cadillac, arrived in April of 1947. There were 12 members of the original slate of Trustees.
- Henry B. Tucker was appointed supervisor of Drivers in 1947 with his brother Arthur as his assistant.
- First fund drive received $6,961 from 447 persons
- Past Presidents included Mr. Aubrey Nelson, Mr. Fred B. Candee, Mr. Edward H. Bishop, Mr. Arthur Bush, and Mr. Charles Laskay, Jr.
- The second Cadillac Ambulance arrived March of 1959, at a cost of $9,800. The Exchange Club of Easton assisted with its volunteer organization for this second fund-raising campaign.
- In 1962, The Associations By-Laws were changed to increase the trustees to 16.
- In 1953, Police Chief Oscar Svihra became Chief Driver with Mr. Anthony Csandi as his assistant.
- At the annual meeting in 1968, Chief Svirha resigned and Mr. Csandi became Chief Driver.
- The third Cadillac Ambulance was purchased in May 1968 costing $18,120. The funds to pay for the new ambulance were taken from a Sinking Fund established in 1953.
- The Easton Ambulance Association received 64 calls during its first year of operation. From 1969 to 1970, Easton Ambulance responded to 159 calls and from the first year of operation to 1970 the Easton Ambulance Association responded to a total of 1,984 calls.
- The Caddy ambulances were equipped with two-way radios that were tuned to the Fairfield County Band and Easton’s own Fire Department Band. The ambulance was also air-conditioned.
- Since 1947, the Easton Volunteer Fire Department always housed the Ambulance. When the third fire truck was purchased, the fire department constructed a separate heated garage to house the ambulance. This included electricity and hot and cold water.
- As of February 15, 1969 a team of two EMT’s are on call from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., seven days a week to cover all calls received during that time.
An Easton citizen fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a broken neck. Those in attendance, not knowing what to do in this emergency, picked up the patient and carried him upstairs. As a result, he choked to death before proper help could be summoned.
One of our citizens was forced to wait two and a half hours for the services of an ambulance and a resuscitator for his drowned daughter. The ambulance was lost because the driver was not acquainted with our roads. The child died.
Another citizen found her husband in the bathroom suffering from a heart attack, and rushed to the phone to call for local assistance. A policeman and a neighbor were at a card party in town; this was the only help she could find. The man died due to the lack of an ambulance and trained personnel.
These are a few of the tragedies that prompted the citizens of Easton, in the mid-forties; to take steps prepare their town for medical emergencies. It began with a citizen’s suggestion that an inhalator (resuscitator) be placed in the one police car operated by the Chief of Police, Edward S. Knight. It was proposed that the Easton Auxiliary Police ‘Flat Food Club’ sponsor such a movement. This was brought before the members at one of the regular meetings. The President, Chief Knight, agreed this was a good idea, but he also felt that it would be more advantageous to get an ambulance. Time and time again, it had been proven that an ambulance was needed in the Town of Easton. Chief Knight appointed a committee to investigate the matter.
Chief Edward S. Knight became ill shortly after the committee was formed. Upon his death, it was decided by the ‘Flat Food Club’ to table the matter indefinitely.
On January 8, 1946, at a meeting of the Easton Auxiliary Police ‘Flat Food Club’, the matter of an ambulance for the Town of Easton was again presented to the membership. They felt it would be a very fitting tribute to the late chief to proceed with his original plan. Accordingly, the committee was instructed to continue their investigation. They reported their findings…the Townspeople wanted an ambulance in Easton.
A general meeting was called at Samuel Staples School, which resulted in a unanimous vote to form a Corporation, to be known as the “Easton Ambulance Association, Inc.” The Association was to procure and operate an ambulance for the “free use of all in need of its services.”
On the 8th day of May, 1946, the Easton Ambulance Association was duly incorporated under the State of Connecticut Law to “without profit, procure, finance, operate, and maintain an ambulance service for the Town of Easton.”
It was on this same day, May 8, 1946, that the first meeting of The Easton Ambulance Association was called order at 9:00 p.m. at the Town Hall. By majority vote the following officers were elected: Charles O. Rauschkolb, President; Mrs. Stanley H. Bullard, Vice President; Arthur J. Tucker, Secretary; and A. L. French, Treasurer. The following citizens were named as the first Board of Trustees of the Association: Harold G. Bechtel, Arthur J. Tucker, Charles O. Rauschkolb, Henry B. Tucker, Eugene E. Norton, Joseph F. Watts, H. W. Jepson, Berton Shock, A. L French, W. S. Gillette, Michael Svihra, and Stanley H. Bullard.
The first order of business for the newly formed Association was to raise the funds for the purchase of an ambulance. It was proposed that a letter be sent to all Easton residents announcing the Association and especially expressing the fact that the ambulance would in no way affect property taxes in the town. Donations were not solicited in the letter; house to house collectors were sent out for that purpose.
By August 14, 1946, a total of $4,500.00 in cash had been collected and pledges were made for an additional $1,200.00. Members of the Association now set about the task of finding a suitable ambulance for purchase.
At a meeting on November 9, 1946, the membership made the decision that a Cadillac ambulance seemed to have the most desirable features and by far the best delivery dates. However, the new ambulance would cost more the amount raised. A letter was sent to all contributors of $5.00 or less asking them to give at least another dollar towards the cost of the ambulance equipment. Another letter was sent to all town organizations asking for their help in donating articles of equipment.
In preparation for the arrival of the new ambulance in town, fourteen citizens received Red Cross First Aid Certificates to become ambulance drivers. At a meeting on April 30, 1947, the Association made plans to announce by postcard the arrival of the new ambulance that stood ready for operation at the Easton Firehouse. In a medical emergency, Easton citizens could call their own ambulance located at the firehouse.
At the conclusion of its first year in service, Henry B. Tucker, Supervisor of Drivers, and Arthur J. Tucker, his assistant, reported that the Easton Ambulance Association had responded to a total of sixty-four calls. They further reported that some ‘drivers’ were now receiving Advanced Red Cross First Aid Certificates.
In the years to follow, nine ambulances were purchased. The 1947 ambulance was in service for twelve years and logged 17,500 miles; the 1959 ambulance was in service for nine years and logged 22,000 miles; the 1968 ambulance was in service for eight years and logged 24,500 miles; the 1976 ambulance was in service for eight years and logged over 30,500 miles.
Prior to 1971, Red Cross First Aid and Advanced Red Cross First Aid Certificates were considered adequate medical training for ambulance personnel. In that year, the first Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) courses were offered for ambulance attendants. Since that time, the State of Connecticut has required that ambulances be staffed by a minimum of one MRT (Medical Response Technician) and one EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Ambulance drivers not trained as MRT’s or EMT’s were required to complete a course in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). The basic training for an EMT was over eighty hours in the classroom and a minimum of ten hours on duty in hospital Emergency Rooms. For State Certification, each EMT candidate had to pass a State Written Examination and a State Practical Examination. Upon successful completion of these two tests, a certification was awarded good for 2 years. Every two years, an EMT must re-certify by returning to the classroom and once again passing the State Written Examination and the State Practical Examination. Once an EMT completed a full year of active service on the ambulance, further or advanced training was available. More than half of the EMT’s on the Easton Ambulance were MAST (Military Anti Shock Trousers) Certified and some advanced further. Each Advanced Certification required further specialized classroom training and State Examinations.
Any person over the age of eighteen was eligible to become an EMT. Courses were given in the local area several times each year. Any person who aspired to become a volunteer EMT was encouraged to do so. The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Services, Inc. was always ready and eager to welcome new EMT’s.
At a Town Meeting held on October 23, 1980, an ordinance was passed to establish an Emergency Medical Services Commission. Five prominent Easton citizens were appointed to this Commission by the Board of Selectmen: Forris B. Chick, M.D., Mitchell H. Greenberg, V.M.D., Philip R. Haskell, Daniel J. Passeri, M.D., and Steven E. Reinberg, EMSI.
Since its first day of operation, Easton Ambulance, a non-profit organization, has provided emergency medical services to the people of Easton. The service is provided twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. It is supported solely by the people of Easton and non-residents travelling through our town. Volunteers receive no pay for their services.
Currently, the Police Dispatcher dispatches the ambulance. EMT’s are on call and are alerted by the dispatcher by a home pager system. The pager system went into affect in April of 1982 and has proved invaluable in saving precious time in summoning EMT’s and the ambulance to the scene of a medical emergency.
In the latter part of 1983, it was proposed by the membership of the Association to change the name of the Easton Ambulance Association, Inc. It was felt that the name should reflect the service provided by the town.
In 1984, by majority vote of the membership, the name of the Easton Ambulance Association, Inc. has been changed and updated to The Easton Volunteer Medical Service, Inc.
The list of ambulances placed in service continued with the purchase of a 1984 Wheeled Coach / Ford Type III “box” style ambulance. It was the first of its kind for Easton EMS. While the modular ambulance took over as the primary vehicle for responding to calls, the 1976 Cadillac continued to serve in a back-up capacity. The service quickly realized the value of having two vehicles available for multi-patient and simultaneous calls and kept the Cadillac in service until 1986 when the state would no longer provide a waiver for the outlawed vehicles. At that time, the service purchased a used 1976 Wheeled Coach Type II “van” ambulance for back up purposes. While the used vehicle had issues as expected, it served its purpose until 1990 when funds for a new vehicle became available and another Wheeled Coach Type III replaced it. This vehicle was designed to assist the Fire Dept on fire and rescue calls. It had two Quartz pole lights mounted on the front of the box to extend upwards to light up an incident scene. It also had two 110 watt plugs on either side of the truck for powering additional tools and lighting. The truck had a set of air horns on the roof to assist the siren in moving traffic; as well it had an air drop system so the rear of the ambulance would lower to the ground for easier patient loading. With all these extras, the vehicle created maintenance issues regularly. In 1996, the 1984 Wheeled Coach was replaced with a brand new Horton/ Ford Type III ambulance. This truck was kept fairly basic in design.
As the Service added vehicles and personnel, radios became an issue. In the days prior to 1976, there was only 1 ambulance that used the Police frequency to communicate to the dispatcher and responding personnel. At that time the ambulance was known as “Car 100”. As time went on and both the police and EMS call volume grew, it became apparent that a separate radio frequency was needed for EMS. At that time, it was found to be beneficial to obtain a pager alerting system to notify members of emergency calls, who were up until this time being notified of ambulance calls via telephone. On August 24th 1981 Easton EMS was issued by the FCC 155.295 as our own radio frequency. The 2 ambulances soon became known as Medic 1 & Medic 2. Later, to conform to CMED radio protocol, it became easier to rename the ambulances 851 & 852 respectively (85 being the service’s CMED designation and 1 and 2 for which vehicle was responding.
In the early 80’s, EMS acquired a grant for the purchase of portable radios. These were issued to 9 members, who were either very active or were the President or Vice President. They were used to communicate with the dispatcher to tell them that they were going to pick up the ambulance or go to the scene, and when they got to the scene what the responding ambulance needed to bring in. These proved to be a very important tool and were added into the budget for replacement when they became old and for additional radios to be purchased with the goal to out fit every member. As of 1998 twenty-five radios are in service, with two in reserve and one installed with a charger on each ambulance. In 2008, almost all personnel have possession of a portable radio.
At some point in the early to mid 80’s, the concept of paramedic intercepting came to Easton. Easton EMS found at more serious calls it was unable to provide IV’s and/or administer drugs to stabilize a patient’s condition. It was decided to enter into an informal “gentleman’s” agreement with ACE Ambulance Inc. of Fairfield who, when called, would provide a paramedic in a “fly-car” to intercept with the Easton EMS ambulance already enroute to the hospital. Easton was one of the first in this area to implement this program, causing surrounding towns to follow suit. Due to buy outs and mergers in 1996 ACE was purchased by MedStar which merged with AMR (American Medical Response), an international company. Easton EMS felt with this merger, a personal touch was lost by the company and moved to a family run company called Danbury / Nelson Ambulance, feeling that Danbury / Nelson Ambulance was more willing to work with patients to ensure insurance would cover any bill that might be incurred.
Easton EMS over the years has been at the leading edge of ALS (Advanced Life Support) for the benefit of prehospital patient care by learning new skills such as M.A.S.T. (Military Anti-Shock Trousers) and defibrillation. A joint venture with the Easton Police in 1997 put Easton as one of the first towns in the state to provide and use defibrillators as a treatment for cardiac arrest. The machines were purchased and put on line with the help of many town organizations and individuals, donating time and money to the program.
For the first 40 or so years Easton Ambulance Association / Easton EMS was housed behind the firehouse in the white garage. The height of the garage was changed several times over the years to accommodate each new ambulance’s increasing height. Cinder blocks were placed under the original structure to make the opening higher.
With the acquisition of the second ambulance, housing became an issue more than ever. A silver canvas tent was purchased and erected next to the garage to attempt to keep the vehicle out of the weather. Cold weather continued to be a problem and, members would come down to the garage once a day, if their schedules allowed, to run the ambulance for a short time to ensure the ambulance would start and that the linen’s were warm and sterile water would not freeze.
Meetings were held at member’s homes, and records of the company such as financial and run forms were stored there as well. While not exactly legal, it was better than keeping them in an unsecured garage. Training was held at the Firehouse; they would allot us time in the building once a month to practice and learn new skills.
In the 1980’s there was talk of building one public safety complex, to house Fire, Police and EMS. The Police Department was desperately seeking better working quarters. The Fire Department however, wanting to keep its individuality, did not approve of the concept, and without total support from the three departments the proposal was destined for failure. A few more grass roots attempts to house the three departments was tried but never really got off the ground. Soon after this, the Fire Department announced its intentions to build a new structure. This started the race to see who could fight the hardest and longest for the “old fire house”. The town was to buy the structure, but who would be housed in it?
Both the Police Department and EMS made good points. They both had a little more than nothing for a headquarters. For several months (according to newspaper reports) the two departments went back and forth with the town as to why they were more deserving than the other was. The town tried to compromise by suggesting that both departments share the building. Both departments immediately shot this down due to the security needs for the police department having prisoners and a growing need for confidential record storage and EMS’ belief that it could effectively use all the space in the building for sleeping quarters and securing records formally kept at members homes in to the space. Soon after the firehouse was built and they vacated the building, EMS was granted the occupancy of the building while the police department went on with a renovation and expansion project of their space under the town hall.
EMS was well aware of the structural and fire code issues with the building. EMS thought they would be corrected by the town either that or the following year. Funding promised by the town fell through and the already elderly building constructed in 1921 was more than showing its age (the reason the Fire Department chose to build a new facility). The Fire Marshall limited occupancy to the 1st floor and not past 12 midnight due to the multiple fire code violations. This meant EMS lost a lot of valuable storage space, the ability to sleep at the new headquarters, and several other potential benefits of having their own building.
But EMS did have a central headquarters to work from. It was a warm place to keep the ambulances, a place to train and meet with the members, as well as the ability for the members to have a place to meet on a social level, share stories of calls and make closer friendships with fellow crew members. Not all was lost, but it wasn’t what EMS had dreamed of.
There was a committee formed prior to the “old fire house” proposal, to look in to the acquisition of what was known as the “Collins” property. Located on Center Road next to the Town Hall parking lot, it was an old abandoned house with a small quantity of land around it, which the town acquired. EMS showed a serious interest in the property for its use as a Headquarters location. Drawings were produced, committees were formed, and the question was put to the town. The town was not happy with the idea of maintenance for another building and wanted to house the EMS and Police Departments together in the old firehouse. The “Collins” property acquisition by EMS was soon abandoned because of problems with the property. Years later it was developed into a $4 million library, during the Town Hall Police Department renovations.
This short history of The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Services, Inc. from its beginnings at a Town Meeting in 1946 to the present day can only begin to examine the events that have taken place over the years to provide and maintain the high level of standards established by its membership. It is the training, dedication, and total commitment of all of the members that make the service what it is today. The many hours of work are rewarded by lasting friendships, mutual respect and the self-satisfaction received from team participation in a job well done as a volunteer EMT with The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Services.
In addition to the many hours responding to medical emergencies in the town, the volunteer EMT’s provide many other services. The teach courses in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), provide ‘stand-by’ service to the Fire Department on fire calls, assist in physicals for Pop Warner Baseball candidates, provide ‘stand-by’ service at local athletic events, perform Blood Pressure screenings at affairs sponsored by town organizations and at the annual Memorial Day Parade, furnish speakers for the Baby Sitting Clinic run by the Fire Marshall, supply speakers and slide presentations on Emergency Medical Services for any town club or organization, bring the ambulance to the Day Camp sponsored by the Park and Recreation Department for a tour by the children, and welcome the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Explorer Scouts and other youth groups to visit the ambulance and talk to EMT’s about emergency medical care. Added to this list for the past three years has been Operation Santa Claus; the EMT’s don colorful costumes to bring Santa, his Elf and his entourage to the homes where parents and other citizens have arranged for a gift to be delivered. All of these activities are evidence of the dedication and commitment each volunteer EMT feels to the Town of Easton.