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The History of Southbury Ambulance Association

In 1953 the Southbury Lions Club started Southbury Ambulance Association (SAA). The Lions Club members used their own funds to purchase a 1949 Packard ambulance. The Club later reimbursed them for this expense. Originally SAA was supported by the annual Ham and Bean Dinner held by the Lions Club and augmented by memorial contributions and donations. The ambulance was housed under the Briarwood, known for the coffee cup displayed on the roof. This establishment was later known as the Three Gables, and is now 88 Main Street South. In 1971 a used ambulance from SAA was purchased in order to form the Heritage Village Ambulance Corporation. The purchase price was modest; only enough to render the transaction legal. SAA was instrumental in assisting Heritage Village to begin with their new venture.

Until 1975, SAA was dispatched by telephone. This meant that, if you were on call, you had to remain near the phone at all times (no call waiting or cell phones!). Dispatch duties were first handled by Southbury Training School, then from 1974 to 1978 Woodbury Answering Service, and then Southbury Answering Service took over. In 1975, SAA obtained a used paging system and a base radio, which finally freed members from the telephone. These days, SAA uses a modern 9-1-1 system and responds to calls received by the Main Street South dispatch center.

The Town of Woodbury did not have its own ambulance service, so SAA responded to ambulance requests in their town. Primary Service Areas (PSA’s), as we know them today, simply did not exist. Ambulance services were regulated by the Ambulance Commission, which fell under the control of the Connecticut Public Utilities Commission. The Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) was formed in 1975, and authority transferred to the Connecticut Department of Health Services. Hartford Hospital offered one of the first EMT courses in 1972. SAA members were among the first to complete EMT training in the early 1970s.

Between 1976 and 1979, SAA encountered difficulties with maintaining sufficient crew levels. Only members of the Lions Club were allowed to join SAA. There were times when as few as only thirteen active EMTs were available to man crews!

The years 1977-78 saw some serious changes for SAA. The membership restriction was lifted and anyone with the interest in helping their neighbors could ride, with minimally required training: First Aid and CPR certified. In addition, Woodbury Ambulance Association was formed, which certainly removed a great burden from SAA. Also, in 1978, SAA purchased its first modular ambulance. New state and federal regulations specified the type of vehicle needed to meet their requirements necessitating this change.

By 1980, the increased cost of operating the ambulance service prompted members to initiate a fund drive appeal letter, which was mailed to all residents of Southbury. The letter requested contributions to help defray expenses, which could no longer be covered by the Ham and Beans dinner and memorial donations alone.

In the mid-1980s, SAA certification increased to IV Tech Level. Two years later, due to changing protocols and diminishing personnel, SAA reverted back to Basic Life Support (BLS) level. In 1993, SAA members became certified in defibrillation. Soon to follow was Epi-pen certification. Presently, SAA is certified as an EMT-B/Defibrillation service, with paramedic intercept provided on an as-needed basis by Campion Ambulance out of Waterbury.

The operating budget of SAA in 1997 was in excess of $50,000.00. This figure does not reflect the monetary value of the thousands of hours donated by SAA volunteers who gave and continue to give freely and willingly of their time for their care and convenience off the residents of Southbury and of those who suffer illness or accident while in town. SAA responds to more than 1,800 emergency requests for ambulance service each year. SAA also provides backup coverage for Heritage Village Ambulance and Southbury Training School Fire Department Ambulance. These services were provided at no cost to the patient up until 2000.

There were many attempts to find a permanent home for SAA. Land was donated to the Association, but the cost of construction and other considerations made it impossible to build, and the land was returned. It is important to note that SAA as well as Heritage Village Ambulance Association receive absolutely NO FUNDING from the Town of Southbury. All costs and expenditures are borne by the association and paid for with other revenues raised through the efforts of the membership, billing of patients insurance, and/or through donations. In 2001, SAA was forced to contract for assistance with staffing to meet the requirements of OEMS.

SAA continues to grow and meet the everyday needs of the community of Southbury. In May 2001, SAA purchased a second ambulance, and a third was purchased in March 2007. The continued search for a home of our own has finally become a reality. SAA purchased the former Sacred Heart Church Rectory at 68 Georges Hill Road in December 2006 and officially moved into the new facility in August 2007. SAA created a website, email and online scheduling in 2006 to improve communications within.

SAA has been a leader in EMS in its community. In May 2010, SAA received the Governors Annual EMS Volunteer Organization Achievement Award.  Partnering with Pomperaug High School, we have offered numerous EMT classes to students. In addition, SAA offers a variety of CPR, First Responder, First Aid, public information and education, and emergency preparedness classes to people throughout the community: Lifeguards, teachers, families, scouts, neighborhood watch groups, churches and town employees are just a few examples of the beneficiaries of SAA community education and awareness programs.

SAA leads by example in its community and supports its neighboring communities as well. Through its community interaction and support and development of its volunteer members, SAA is a leader in Connecticut’s EMS system and as such has made a lasting impact.

SAA is a truly volunteer driven organization which operates solely for the benefit of the Town of Southbury. We are your neighbors, the high school student, the man across the street, the store clerk, the business executive, the mother of your child’s best friend, the Little League coach, your carpenter, the mail carrier, the school nurse. We spend countless unpaid hours maintaining and updating our skills and knowledge.  We are here for you when you need us. We care because we are “neighbors helping neighbors since 1953.” Our members range from teens to senior citizens, all working together in their community.