The Founding of Westport Volunteer EMS

Providing care for local residents, Westport Emergency Medical Services was operated by Westport Residents, the Audley family, from the 1920’s until 1980.

1966 and 1967 saw local resident Charles Lemieux provide the service for Arthur Audley, then, in 1968, Edwin Audley, a nephew of Arthur C. Audley, and a Westport Police Officer took over the day-to-day operation of the ambulance service from his home.

In July 1979 the State Department of Health amended their regulations to Require that all emergency medical service vehicles be staffed by two certified Emergency Medical Technicians. The previous year Westport ‘s ambulance service ambulance call volume had been at an all time high of 1,127 incidents. By this time the service was being operated by Edwin Audley and Bernard Stahursky as a semi-private organization receiving minor funding from the town. Mr. Audley was assisted by a small corps of paid EMTs who drove the ambulance to the scene. Once on the scene they received additional assistance from Westport Police who were, and are today, certified First Responders. However, Westport’s increasing ambulance call volume and the new Department of Health regulations prompted EdwinAudley to speak with First Selectwoman Jacqueline P. Heneage to reorganize the town’s emergency medical service.

On March 6, 1979 , the First Selectwoman appointed an Emergency Medical Service Study Committee to “review the past and present status of our ambulance service and to make recommendations for the future.” The Emergency Medical Service Study Committee spent the spring and summer of 1979, interviewing area EMS Coordinators, Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, and commercial ambulance service representatives, local EMTs and Civil Defense personnel to help scope the committee’s plan.

After reviewing proposals for:
1. A commercial ambulance service, or
2. A paid civilian EMT ambulance service as a special part of the Police Department, or
3. A Volunteer Ambulance Service

The EMS Study Committee on June 27, 1979, recommended that then Sergeant Edwin Audley, “be immediately promoted to Lieutenant to be in charge of a separate Emergency Medical Service Division of the Westport Police Department under the responsibility of the Chief of Police.” Lt. Audley was to be assisted by four paid civilian EMT’s who would train and recruit volunteers. The committee further recommended that “Donation of $35 be requested of ambulance users,” and “The Committee strongly recommends that a garage be built to house the two ambulances and the EMS supply vehicle.” With a 1977 Ford Modular Ambulance as a primary unit and a 1973 Cadillac ambulance as the secondary unit, along with a “1969 International medical supply truck” utilized for disaster response, Westport Emergency Medical Service was underway.

In July, 1979, Lieutenant Audley moved forward with RTM budget requests necessary to hire the additional paid civilian EMTs and began formulating the future of Westport Volunteer EMS . He quickly conducted a public relations drive seeking volunteers to form the new volunteer organization and in September 1979, began teaching an EMT course to train future volunteers.

In October 1979, Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service was officially organized with a Board of Directors. Neil Harding was elected as the first President. The newly formed organization was incorporated in November 1979.

In December 1988, the Town of Westport and Norwalk Hospital entered into a contract to supply Paramedic personnel to Westport EMS and VEMS 24/7 elevating the level of emergency care from the prior EMT-I level. Today, in addition to the continuing relationship with Norwalk Hospital Paramedic Service, several members of Westport EMS and VEMS operate at the Paramedic level.