The American Legion provided ambulance service in Madison from World War II and before under the name The Ambulance Association of the American Legion, Griswold Post 79. The drivers were volunteers. During the war some of the drivers were women because of the shortage of available men. Around the time of WWII the American Legion operated a Packard ambulance.
Following WWII, the American Legion continued to run the ambulance and Peter Casula, Sr. was one of the volunteer ambulance drivers. Pete had been an Army medic in the war. He also worked as a mechanic in town. From 1959 to 1979, Pete was paid to drive the ambulance. The ambulance, by this time one of a series of Cadillacs, was kept in a heated garage behind Pete’s house at night, and was usually found at the Madison Hose Co. # 1 fire house, where Pete was a volunteer during the day. Eventually, as EMS was developed, Pete became an EMT. Pete’s younger brother, Tommy, also became an EMT and worked on the ambulance with Pete. Legion member Clayton Clark was the chairman of the Ambulance Committee for many years.
Gradually, more EMTs began working on the ambulance and the Madison Emergency Medical Technicians Association was formed around 1981. This group added several more volunteer EMTs to the roster. However, the group was disbanded after a short time.
The rate of change and progression began to accelerate rapidly around 1979. The 1974 Cadillac was replaced by a 1978 Ford Type III ambulance. This ambulance did not fit in Pete’s garage, necessitating the rental of a storage unit on Mungertown Road. Dispatch by telephone was supplemented with pagers during the day. The pagers made toning for additional help possible.
In 1980 Madison joined C-MED New Haven and medical radios were installed in the vehicle. This allowed direct communication “by making medical patches” to the hospitals. The local police dispatcher no longer had to relay information on the patient’s condition to the hospital.
In 1981 Madison’s first IV techs were trained and Intermediate service was initiated. EMT-Intermediates were allowed to start intravenous lines on patients that requires fluids and give additional medications.
In 1984 the Town of Madison built a building on Bradley Road to house the ambulance. The building included two bays for the Ambulance and one section for the Madison Police Department which included storage of the Marine Patrol boat. At this time a second ambulance was purchased – a used 1979 Type III Ford.
In 1986 the American Legion decided that running the ambulance was becoming too large a job for their committee of volunteers. A new non-profit association, the Madison Ambulance Association, Inc. was formed. Dave Smith served as the first president with a volunteer board of directors. Kim Gass was a supervisor. Kim was succeeded by Mitch Cohan, and the supervisor position was replaced with the position of Director. In 1987 Mary Hotchkiss became Director.
During the 1980s crews were required to remain with the ambulance at the ambulance garage during their shifts. Call in crews responded from home or work for the second unit. Notification was made by pager.
In 1989 the paramedic service was established and Madison Ambulance obtained the advanced life support (ALS) level primary service area (PSA). New Haven Ambulance provided paramedic personnel under contract. Madison Ambulance provided a 1989 Dodge Caravan as the fly car. Both ambulance and paramedic responded simultaneously to all calls in town.
A third ambulance was purchased in 1991.
In 1992 EMTs became certified in use of the automated external defibrillator.
In December of 1997, after expiration of the paramedic contract with AMR (which had bought New Haven Ambulance) Madison Ambulance Association contracted with Middlesex Hospital to provide the paramedic personnel. Madison Ambulance Association remained under New Haven Sponsor Hospital and Middlesex Hospital remained the sponsor hospital for their paramedics.
The Madison Police Department is the designated first responder in town. In 1998 the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company became the supplemental first responder in North Madison. They acquired basic life support equipment and AEDs. This significantly reduced the response times for early defibrillation in this part of town most distant from the ambulance base of operations.
EMS Director Mary Hotchkiss retired in 2006. David Fortino was named Chief of Service following Ms. Hotchkiss’s retirement until 2008. Steven Shaw served as Chief of Service from 2008 until 2009. Christopher Bernier has served as EMS Director since 2010 to present day.
In 2008 a fourth ambulance was added to the service.
In 2010, the position of Deputy Director was added.
On May 2, 2011 Madison Ambulance Association, Inc. began providing our own paramedic personnel as the Middlesex Hospital contract ended.
In August 2011 Madison Ambulance Association moved to a new EMS station located at 9 Old Route 79. Madison Ambulance now occupied the site of the previous Senior Center and the Senior Center moved to the old ambulance station location on Bradley road. At this time Madison Ambulance Association staffed two ALS ambulances during the day and a BLS ambulance and a paramedic fly car at night.
Following the devastation from Hurricane Sandy to the tri state area in 2012, Madison Ambulance and the Town of Madison donated a 1998 Ford/Wheeled Coach ambulance to the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department located on the south shore of Long Island. This department lost ambulances, fire engines and many other pieces of equipment during Hurricane Sandy. In conjunction with Madison Hose Co # 1, the North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. and the Madison Women’s Club, Madison EMS hosted a “stuff an ambulance” event and filled the ambulance with cleaning supplies and first aid supplies.
In 2013, Madison Ambulance Association, Inc. began doing business as Madison Emergency Medical Services. During this year, Madison EMS also purchased the first chest compression system [device] for the service. The chest compression system performs a consistent quality of chest compressions that aids in life sustaining perfusion of the brain and heart. The device frees up hands and allows our clinicians to provide care with limited resources.
During the summers of 2012, 2013 and 2014 two ALS ambulances were staffed both day and night.
On July 1, 2014 Madison EMS began staffing two ALS ambulances 24/7 year-round.
In 2015 Valley Shore Emergency Communications, Inc. began providing CMED service to Madison as the South Central Regional Emergency Communications System [CMED New Haven] was disbanded.
In 2021 Madison EMS purchased two video laryngoscope devices. This equipment helps our paramedics with airway management.
In the span of 30+ years the ambulance service in Madison grew from one vehicle staffed at the basic life support level by a handful of volunteers who were dispatched by telephone to a paramedic service with 4 ambulances and two support vehicles.
Madison Emergency Medical Services is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) emergency medical service organization (not a town agency) serving the Madison community. Madison EMS is designated by the State of Connecticut as the Primary Service Area Responder at the Basic Ambulance and Paramedic level for the geographic boundaries of the Town of Madison. Madison EMS operates four ambulances. Madison EMS is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of community members.
Contributors to this history:
Mary B. Hotchkiss