Recently, while waiting for a family member being treated in the Middlesex Hospital Emergency Center in Marlborough, the Town’s ambulance arrived, doing as it has done for 60 years – transporting, without fanfare, those from our community in need of emergency service. Arriving with the patient was EMT Kate Morris, who along with the 35 or more volunteer EMT’s and drivers, respond to nearly 1,200 calls annually. This encounter was fortuitous since I had just met with Kate a few days prior to obtain information on the history of the East Hampton Ambulance Association. Seeing these dedicated members of our community in action reminds me and us all of the important service volunteers provide – an important component in small communities such as ours where the well being of our families, neighbors and townsfolk becomes a common bond and an important feature of community pride. Without this volunteer corps, response time to emergencies would escalate from minutes to hours if we relied solely on paid responders from Middletown or Hartford to respond to emergencies – all when time is of the essence.
EHAA formed when First Selectman Milton Nichols convened a committee on May 6, 1953, composed of local businessmen and members of Rotary, to evaluate, design, structure and determine the need for an ambulance association. Incorporated shortly thereafter by members of the committee, Chauncey Bevin, Eleanor Fazzino and Jim Walsh (Kate Morris’s father). Frank Popowitz was appointed the EHAA’s first President. Its original mission was to provide transportation for patients in need of emergency medical care to the doctor’s office (Dr. Louis Sorreff or Dr. Norman Gardner) or hospital. The basics have not changed, but the delivery of service has. In those early years speed was tantamount, transporting the patient for medical attention quickly and as comfortable as possible.
With a major transformation in The 1970s transformed service as medical attention on route became important. Since the mid 1990s, EHAA has been affiliated with the Middlesex Hospital Paramedic Service providing advanced medical care which significantly improved the quality of service in emergency situations, and since 1998, the corps has been AED (defibrillator) certified, keeping pace with training and protocols from their medical control facility, Middlesex Hospital.
As previously noted, early supporters included businessmen of the community and Rotarian's who comprised many of the Town’s professionals and merchants. Their support was critical as they possessed a firsthand view of much of the emergency requirements. If a valued employee suffered an injury in the work place, it was imperative to get that worker treatment as quickly as possible. As you may recall, East Hampton had several bell manufacturers and numerous other machine shops. Long before OSHA, much of the machinery lacked what today we consider essential safety measures. Speed getting an employee to medical treatment could me the difference of saving versus losing a hand or arm. Workers were not just valued employees. The closeness of the community and years spent together made them all like families. Unlike today, it was common for owner and management to be on the shop floor, running machinery or overseeing production. They knew their workers on a personal level. They often attended the same churches, shopped locally, and recreated together, in the business and professional baseball or basketball leagues. The formation of the EHAA included not only our business and political leaders, it was staffed by a volunteer group of twelve First Aiders, trained from the ranks of volunteer firemen, who responded to calls for aide “as often as they could” and were literally from the old school of “you call – we haul!”
Our first ambulance was a 1939 Cadillac housed in one of the Bevin Bros. Manufacturing Co. barns on Bevin Court. A few years later, a 1953 Cadillac was purchased and served the community, with the EHAA acquiring its first box type vehicle in 1976. Today, we are served by two state of the art Ambulances and a proud group of highly trained and dedicated volunteers available to help any who call at a moment’s notice.
The First Aiders, volunteers from the fire department, coordinated by Captain Don Ingraham, provided emergency support until the early 1970s, when Ron Brady, one of our EHHS teachers, became coordinator and began an intensive training program to certify personnel as EMTs. From formation, townspeople became “members” of EHAA for $5 a year which guaranteed transportation to hospital. If you didn’t join, you were still guaranteed care and a ride to hospital. Many families contributed because without the support, vehicles and equipment that might save their lives could not be purchased. In 1997, the corps moved away from the annual membership drive and became an insurance supported response team. 2005 saw the opening of the EHAA new headquarters on Middletown Avenue. This three-bayed facility, made possible with bonding from the Town and significant financial contributions from our citizens, is equipped to become a regional center for emergency personnel in time of disaster.
So what could you do? Kate Morris explained that many of the volunteers who start out as drivers train and become EMTs. This is wonderful for the EHAA and our community, but often leaves us short of drivers. You could give your town a wonderful Christmas or Holiday gift - volunteer your time to become an ambulance driver! Give Kate Morris a call for further information. 860- . Remember, EHAA has never abandoned what it calls itself, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”