Prior to 1987 emergency ambulance service in Stamford was provided by the Stamford Fire Department, Springdale Fire Department, Glenbrook Fire Department, and the Stamford Ambulance Corps (SAC). The Stamford Fire Department ambulance was staffed by paid firefighters while the SAC, Springdale, and Glenbrook ambulances utilized a combination of paid staff and volunteers. The Stamford Fire Department covered all of the downtown area from Cove Island to the Greenwich line. Their one ambulance responded to approximately 7,000 calls per year and was staffed by firefighters who were certified to the basic EMT level.
The Springdale and Glenbrook Fire Department ambulances were intended to provide EMS coverage for each of their respective fire districts. However, due to the heavy volume of calls in the downtown district, both departments provided backup to the Stamford Fire Department city ambulance. Glenbrook was the most active in this area, and responded to approximately 1,400 EMS calls, mostly downtown. Springdale responded to approximately 500 calls per year. Each of these ambulances was staffed primarily by the paid firefighters during the day, and then a combination of a paid firefighter and a volunteer firefighter at night. These firefighters also were trained to the basic EMT level.
The Stamford Ambulance Corps was established to provide EMS services for the residents in those areas in Stamford north of Bull’s Head. This ambulance was staffed by paid personnel during the day, and a combination of one paid staff member and volunteers at night and on weekends. SAC responded to approximately 1,500 calls per year. Unlike the fire department, the activities of the SAC members were related solely to EMS. The members of SAC were trained in advanced life support (ALS), which included defibrillation, intravenous therapy, MAST pants, and advanced airway skills. Prior to the inception of the paramedics, SAC was the only service in Stamford that provided any form of advanced life support. The SAC ambulance was also utilized to back up the Stamford Fire Department unit, primarily on the west side of Stamford. Due to the significant increase in call volume that resulted from going downtown, SAC began staffing a second unit in 1989, primarily for downtown calls. This ambulance was in service Monday through Friday during the day. It was funded by the city, and staffed with paid personnel. These personnel were also certified to the advanced level.
In 1986, a committee was formed to review plans for and establish a paramedic service in Stamford. This committee consisted of members from each of the local hospitals, including the emergency department directors, members of each of the fire departments, the police department, the mayor’s office, and concerned citizens. The paramedic service, named the Stamford EMS Foundation (SEMSF), began operations on May 18, 1987. The service consisted of three paramedics on duty 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. The paramedics were stationed at three locations: The Stamford Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, and the Turn of River Fire Department (TOR). The paramedic vehicles, called “fly cars,” were Chevrolet Suburbans, and carried the medic and his/her equipment. They were not transport vehicles, but were used as simultaneous paramedic response vehicles for all EMS calls, in addition to the ambulance and rescue unit.
With the addition of the paramedics, emergency medical services in Stamford were being provided by five separate departments. With the exception of SAC, there was little or no coordination between departments in the training of personnel, quality assurance, or utilization of resources. Each department in most respects acted autonomously. Because of the ALS capabilities of SAC, there was much better coordination in training and quality assurance between SAC and the SEMSF. The training activities of SAC, as well as quality assurance, were closely monitored by the emergency room directors of both hospitals, as well as the paramedics.
A study of EMS services in Stamford was conducted by the mayor’s office in 1990. The conclusions of that study were that EMS services could be provided more efficiently if all the services were consolidated and operated as one entity. It was felt that a single service would provide a more standardized level of care providing more accountability of personnel, as well as an enhanced level of training and quality assurance.
The Stamford Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (SEMS) was formed on May 18, 1992 in response to this study, combining the services of the SEMSF and SAC into SEMS. Then on June 1, 1992, SEMS took over operations of the other ambulances in the city. All vehicles and other assets of the old services were contributed to the new organization.
On May 18, 2017, SEMS marked 25 years as a private, nonprofit ambulance service. Today, SEMS provides paramedic-level care for 911 medical emergencies and non-emergency transport services to more than 143,000 people in the 75 square miles of the city of Stamford and the town of Darien. SEMS services over 14,000 calls each year, and is Connecticut’s only accredited EMS agency.