If you’ve never needed Westport Volunteer EMS — whether at home, out and about, or in an ambulance — consider yourself lucky.
Your time will come.
And whether you have or have not, if you’ve never considered where the funding for this volunteer service — including its 3 ambulances, and every bit of equipment — comes from: The time has come.
Read on. Then pony up.
Established over 40 years ago, Westport EMS is a neighbor-to-neighbor organization. Over 100 members give almost 20,000 hours of their time each year, staffing ambulances. They come from all walks of life. (Because they love Westport so much, some are from out of town too).
Nearly every call includes a paramedic — very rare, especially for a community this size. Response time beats the national average (and have you seen the traffic in town lately?).
So how much money comes from the town budget?
EMS is not funded by taxes. The yearly budget — around $1.3 million — is almost entire self-funded. That pays for 7 full-time staff members, 1 full-time Norwalk Hospital paramedic, and other costs like buildings and insurance.
Westport Volunteer EMS — the volunteer arm of the official town agency, run by the Police Department — raises all money needed to buy equipment supplies. That’s everything from Band-Aids (true!) to ambulances (which are substantially more expensive than bandages).
A fully outfitted ambulance costs over $300,000. WVEMS has 3. They should be bought new every 8 to 10 years. For a variety of reasons, all must be replaced soon.
The stretcher and loading system for each ambulance is over $50,00o. They are replaced when the ambulances are.
A fly car (paramedic response vehicle) costs $50,000. Westport has 3; they are replaced every 10 years as well.
A Lifepak 15 heart monitoring device costs $50,000. We have 4. A Lucas CPR device costs $15,000. Westport has 3.
Oh, yeah: WVEMS supplies all their own PPE. You might not have thought about that before March 2020. Now you know that vital equipment adds up quickly too.
Raising money — even as a 501(c)(3), even in a town like Westport — is challenging. Most people assume their taxes cover EMS. They don’t.
More than half of all donations are $50 or less; 83% are no more than $100. WVEMS has, admittedly, not done a good job telling their story to Westporters — including the wealthiest families, who already support so many other good causes.
WVEMS hopes to establish a professionally managed endowment, providing self-funding for vehicle and supply needs. Neighboring towns have already done that.
Burns also encourages Westporters to spread the WVEMS word, to others who might help.
It’s one of our town’s most important services. As noted earlier: If you haven’t needed them yet — one day you will.
Your contribution today will ensure a speedy response — and a new ambulance, if needed — tomorrow.