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.
“Every dollar counts,” says Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service president Michael Burns. (Click here to donate; click here for more information, including how to volunteer.)
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.
Thank you Dan for sharing this information. I can personally attest that our EMS is an incredibly important service to our community and saved the life of one of my clients. Most people don’t realize they are volunteers so please donate whatever you can!
Thanks for the reminder, Dan. EMS has twice responded to a call for my husband, and we are very grateful for their prompt, courteous, and very professional actions. I will send in my annual contribution now.
It’s truly sad that Westport must raise funds for an essential service such as EMS. At the bare minimum all equipment should be part of the town budget, payed by all taxpayers. We would not ask the police or fire departments to pay for their equipment or hope that the wealthy would step up…no,the town and taxpayers need to step up and do their jobs.
WESTPORTERS HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH OUR FINEST POLICE, FIRE AND EMS SERVICES.. I HAVE BENEFITED MORE THAN ONCE FROM THEIR SUPERIOR LIFE SAVING SERVICES OF THE EMS VOLUNTEERS. FROM THE MINUTE THEY ARRIVE YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN GOOD HANDS. YOUR DONATIONS ARE WELL SPENT . . .
Thanks for your reminder!! Just made my donation!!!!
I surely will make a donation but the real question and focus of the message should be, “why isn’t the EMS permanently funded by our taxes and why don’t we push to establish tax based funding” ? How could such a vital and important service be subject to a variable and unstable funding structure that is dependent solely on who and when someone decides to be generous? All of us benefit, all of us should pay!
I’m impressed by the fact that this has been more or less privately funded for as long as it has. It goes to show how much people are willing to give in support of something they believe to be for the good of the community!