A flooding basement, lack of proper storage, and overly short garage bays are but a few of the problems with the Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Service’s 91-year-old building. Built in 1925 and in use by 1926, the old firehouse has been the home of the EMS since 1988. Its residents say that it’s time for them to find a new one.
“We have outgrown the current building over the years,” said Easton EMS President Victor Malindretos. “The new building would be built to our current specifications and accommodate our ambulances and response vehicles, include business offices, bunk rooms, training rooms, and areas for emergency cooling and heating centers.”
Garage And Maintenance Problems
The building has only three garage bays to accommodate four emergency vehicles and the low ceiling means that equipment such as antennas, vents, or lighting cannot be affixed to the roof of the ambulances. Furthermore, the ambulances must be custom built to fit the building as the stock models are simply too tall to fit the garage bays.
A lack of a proper front apron means that when the emergency vehicles are going out to a call, they must pull directly out onto Route 59, affecting response times and blocking traffic.
Numerous maintenance issues plague the building, as would be expected of a nearly 100-year-old structure. The most recent tropical storm broke both the generator and furnace, which had to be replaced. The building has one working shower and unfiltered well water coming from a well head on a neighbor’s property. Additionally, the roof is nearly 25 years old and will need to be replaced soon.
When it rains, the basement regularly floods with large volumes of water, requiring the installation of a sump pump just to keep the mold in check. The furnace room in the basement also has a wall made of asbestos, a carcinogen that can cause cancer when inhaled. Asbestos is a common feature in older buildings, and the EMS staff has been advised to avoid touching or disturbing it.
“The current building is in need of so many repairs and maintenance that a new building would be more cost-effective than renovating,” said Malindretos.
In addition to the glaring maintenance problems, the EMS headquarters has many logistical issues as well. There is no secure closet space for medical supplies and medication, forcing the garage bays to be lined with supply closets. The building has an overall lack of proper storage. An old unused industrial kitchen and an old smoking lounge are the primary storage rooms, despite not being ideal for such use due to their original construction.
The downstairs of the building has three bedrooms that were built during a renovation, allowing some members to sleep in the building to reduce response times, but the EMS would ideally like more.
“It would be optimal to have four to six bedrooms to allow us to man both ambulances with appropriate personnel during storms and other natural disasters,” said EMS Chief Jonathan Arnold.
The Easton EMS has 11 administrators and supervisors but has only two offices and five desks to split among them. Furthermore, there is only one training and meeting room which is often double-booked five or six nights a week for EMT and CPR classes, recertification training, and various meetings.
The living areas are not handicap accessible and there is no elevator to the upstairs training room. This causes difficulties for older members who help with administrative duties and for guest speakers with disabilities. The building also acts as one of the town’s cooling centers, but the window-mounted air-conditioning units struggle to keep the rooms cool on the hottest days.
“Despite all this, our 30 extremely dedicated volunteers and two full-time paid EMTs continue to do our very best to provide 911 emergency care to the sick and injured who either live in or are just passing through Easton,” Arnold said.
A New Building
The project to build a new EMS headquarters has the enthusiastic support of Easton First Selectman David Bindelglass. When asked if he felt the construction of a new EMS building was a priority for the town he said, “Speaking personally, absolutely. A new home for EMS is very necessary. I believe it is necessary for the proper function of the service. It is important for the town.”
Funding is of course not the only challenge standing in the way of a new building. EMS Commissioner Robert Adriani said that some of the barriers involved with the project “include location, availability of an existing building or land for construction of a new building.”
Identifying a suitable location is one of the most critical aspects of finding a new home for the EMS. The current property is a half-acre with little ability to expand in any direction. A maximum of four cars can park on the property and all other parking must be done on a dirt lot that a neighbor lets them use. A new property would ideally be a full acre, according to Arnold, large enough to accommodate proper parking, a well head, and a septic system.
“The location should be central to the town to allow adequate time to respond to all ends of the town,” Malindretos said. “Our response time of under 10 minutes is a requirement.”
The project has been going on for over a decade, with many residents chipping in to help raise money and look for a suitable property. The EMS currently has a few hundred thousand dollars in savings according to Arnold but needs more to fully finance a new building. A suitable site has not yet been located, and fundraising is ongoing.
“We have been working with an architect who knows what we need,” said Arnold. “We do not have any formal plans because we would need to have a piece of land to base it off of first, and we do not have that yet.”
Both Malindretos and Adriani confirmed that they are open to accept funding from any public or private source. The Fireworks show on Sept. 12 to celebrate Easton’s 175th Anniversary was hosted by the EMS and the proceeds went to the fundraising campaign for a new EMS Building. For information about how to donate to the Easton EMS, go to http://eastonems.com/donate/.