Trumbull EMS: Expansion breathes life into department

Joe Laucella is all about building traditions for Trumbull’s Emergency Medical Services.
That’s why he helped implement an EMS training week at both the middle schools this spring; it’s why he launched an awards show recognition program for his bevy of community volunteers in January; and it’s also the reason he purchased four bikes with grant-funded money to improve the services his department can provide during larger town events.
“It’s all about proactive community outreach,” said Trumbull’s EMS chief. “We want to remain a part of this community and continue to serve it the best possible way.”
Laucella, who took over the newly created post in March 2013, is one of two full-time paid staffers at the town’s EMS headquarters at 250 Middlebrooks Avenue.
Along with longtime EMS Executive Administrative Assistant Barbara Crandall, Laucella oversees a department that consists mainly of about 60 local volunteers and a dozen or so paid emergency medical technicians.
And it’s a group that only keeps growing under Laucella’s supervision.
In 2015, Trumbull EMS received funding to have a second, paid EMT from Danbury Ambulance Services work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week — a position that will allow the department to cover even more calls than ever before.
The extra help came in handy last week when Trumbull EMS helped fire crews rescue a man who’s leg was impaled on a ladder by a tree branch while working at a Fresh Meadow Drive home.
“Believe it or not, that’s when we get the majority of our advanced life support (ALS) calls,” Laucella said.
Last year, the department was able to respond to 93% of the 4,052 calls it received, with the rest of that volume being covered by other first responders through a mutual aid agreement Trumbull has with its neighboring communities.
“Daytime hours are always are busiest — Monday through Friday, that’s when we get our highest volume,” the chief added. “A lot of calls are just chest pain or trouble breathing but every so often its something a lot more major than that...
“Friday and Saturday nights are actually surprisingly,” Laucella said. “Mondays are busiest, statistically speaking.”
Volunteers and ‘Explorers’
While Trumbull EMS relies on those paid EMTs, Laucella gives a lot of credit to his volunteers, who he estimates clock in 1,000-plus hours of service every two months — close to 7,000 hours annually.
“There’s no set time for volunteers,” he explained, “but they ride very consistently in our ambulances.”
He added that based on availability the department would like volunteers to dedicate at least three hours per shift.
“We appreciate all the volunteer hours,” Laucella said. “They really have helped us become what we are today — we couldn’t do it without them.”
And if the 60 volunteers weren’t enough, the chief said there are more young participants coming in the pipeline through the department’s Explorer Post program.
“We have 13 young adults, the majority of whom live in Trumbull, who have been training with us for at least a year,” he said.
“They’re all in high school or college age, and that’s really great for us,” he added. “They meet biweekly and they do various EMS-level training and go on field trips to surgical centers, police departments, and hospitals — basically any industry which EMS touches, and they’re a lot of them.”
He said some of the Explorers want to be doctors; others want to be surgeons; and others cops. And some are even considering a full-time career as an EMT.
Laucella preaches an education-first message, and he backs it up by example with programs like the EMS training week in May, which allowed every eighth grade student in Trumbull to become trained in hands-only CPR.
“It was an open house event that lasted four days,” the chief said. “We hope that it becomes a tradition — something that resonates with the kids and has a high impact in the community...
“There’s nothing more beneficial than giving that type of an education for a skill that they might need to know when they get out into the real world,” he added.
He says the mission of Trumbull EMS is to respond to calls, but also educate the community, which will in turn help prevent possible future incidents from happening.
Another example of education in the community is Trumbull High School’s EMS Club, which was started at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.
“We got a nice response to that club and it will coming back again this year,” said Laucella. “It gives kids the opportunity to learn about EMS and other pubic health fields.”
Besides tapping the local middle and high schools, Trumbull EMS also has seen students from colleges in the area — Yale University, Fairfield University, and Sacred Heart University — drop in to receive training and serve volunteer hours.
Nonetheless, Laucella said recruiting new members to join the EMS field is a constant challenge.
“There are state and federal guidelines that require us to be certified in all of these different fields,” he explained. “The training is such a time commitment because it’s so multi-faceted...
“It’s a wide variety of training,” he added. “There’s child and eldery abuse, Narcan, special needs, domestic violence, Alzheimer’s — and that’s just a few of them.”
Out and about
The kids aren’t the only ones in the community receiving the training.
Laucella says part of his outreach goal is to have everyone in town certified and trained in CPR.
“We’ve trained 1,000 people already in 2015,” he said.
The department received $80,000 from a FEMA grant this year, he said, which went towards purchasing two cardiac monitors (each cost $40,000).
They also have LUCAS CPR devices that perform automatic chest compressions in ambulances.
“Those machines do make it easier for our guys in the field, but there are plenty of situations where you need to know the basics,” he said.
The Trumbull community was certified as HeartSafe in December 2010, and training helps maintain that status.
Trumbull EMS transports about 76% of the patients it serves, while the other 24% are a result of what Laucella calls “good intent/public assist calls.”
“It’s where nobody is hurt but there is someone who needs assistance,” he said.
“We’re happy to report that a majority of the accidents we respond to only have one or two minor injuries,” he added. “It’s more medical than traumatic.”
A new ambulance expected to arrive in August will help make transportation that much easier.
“We’re adding more depth to our fleet,” Laucella said. “When I took over in 2013 we had two ambulances; now we have four.”
The cardiac monitor machines and the new ambulance aren’t the only “toys” the department is getting to play with this year.
Thanks to a private $100,000 donation the department will be able to upgrade its radio system, which will further improve its response time, its communication and its patient care services.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Laucella said.
“2015 has been a year of a lot of firsts,” he said, “and hopefully there are more to come.”