Easton EMS seeks more college live-ins

Arrest of first live-in EMT didn’t negate program’s value

The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Service Commission is looking for a few more EMTs to participate in its live-in program now that one of two previous college student participants won’t be coming back.

The service began the live-in emergency medical technician program in December 2015 and deemed it a mutually beneficial success. The arrest of its first live-in student on unrelated charges in Massachusetts in June hasn’t changed the overall assessment.

“It is so important to continue this program,” said Sgt. Jonathan Arnold, a member of the Easton Police Department who also serves as assistant chief of staff for the Easton EMS. “These college students cover 100% of our midnight calls and also cover second calls during the day, evening shifts and special events when our volunteers are not available.”

The first live-in student, Chris Barlow, 20, of Duxbury, Mass., and a student at Sacred Heart University, was arrested June 26 on charges of stockpiling illegal weapons and impersonating a police officer. He was arraigned June 27 in Plymouth District Court on the charges. His case is pending.

The investigation was carried out with help from the Easton Police Department, Connecticut State Police, U.S. Homeland Security, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Massachusetts State Police.

A second live-in student has helped improve service by being available to answer calls from midnight  to 7 a.m. every night and will be continuing with the program, Arnold said.

“The program has enabled our service to cover a lot more calls,” said Robert Adriani, EMS Commission chairman. “It was carefully administered and well thought out. We’re looking for two more folks to live-in at EMS headquarters. The program provides far more flexibility for the volunteer service, especially in the fall when the summer volunteers go back to school.”

Arnold said the service has two out of its three dorm rooms open this fall. Live-in students sign a contract and agree to cover a certain number of hours. Traditionally, students far exceed the minimum number of hours, he said.  

Arnold has advertised the program to students at nearby schools such as Sacred Heart University, Fairfield University, Western Connecticut State University, the University of Bridgeport and even as far as the University of New Haven.

Applicants must already have a Connecticut EMT card and preferably, but not necessarily, at least one year of active service with an EMS agency, he said.

Past live-ins have been working toward degrees in the medical field and public safety. With that in mind nursing students may be able to use their live-in time as part of the required critical care, hands-on hours they need to graduate.

“In many ways this program has benefitted both the town and the students,” Arnold said.  

The program has worked for decades in volunteer fire and EMS agencies in Maryland and Virginia, he said.

“When we first started the program we reached out to several departments in the greater Washington D.C., area, and they said this program had saved them from having to either close down or hire paid staff,” he said. “We are hoping to continue this life-saving, community-oriented program that benefits so many in their time of need.”

Arnold said It’s difficult to comment on Barlow’s situation as it is still an open investigation.

“But EMS will look at our screening process and see how we can improve it,” he said.

All members, paid and volunteer, are subject to a criminal background check, motor vehicle background check and a drug test, Arnold said. They must provide references and are interviewed. They can be denied membership to the organization if they fail anyone of these part of the process.

“Outside of the criminal activities in Massachusetts, Mr. Barlow did satisfy his duties with Easton EMS,” Arnold said. “He answered calls on a regular basis, on and off duty.”

The other live-in along with the other approximately 25 paid and volunteer staff are staying on and “will continue to faithfully service Easton with dedication and commitment,” Arnold said.

“We at Easton EMS are extremely disappointed in Mr. Barlow’s behavior and hope that he eventually gets the help he needs.” Arnold said.

The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Service has been serving the Easton community since 1946. The service depends on the dedication of a small staff of career personnel and volunteers who are ready to respond to people in need at any time of the day or night.   

As is often the case with volunteer organizations, it becomes difficult for volunteers to balance the time given to the community with the time given to other day-to-day responsibilities.

The Easton EMS  volunteer ranks have dropped over the years, and with people working sometimes two jobs and making family time, staffing the midnight to 7 a.m. shift with volunteers had become a challenge. The live-in program has helped to sustain around-the-clock staffing.

“We have a great crew and cohesive commission,” Adriani said. “Things work well with the paid staff, volunteers, per diem folks and live-in program fully commingled.”

He said the most recent full-time paid staff member, EMT Peter Fiore, has worked out extremely well.

Arnold and Carolyn Kearney, chief of staff, are recruiting for the live-in program. To apply, visit the Easton Volunteer EMS website: eastonems.com.

The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Service is at 448 Sport Hill Road. — Alexandra Kushnir archive photo

The Easton Volunteer Emergency Medical Service is at 448 Sport Hill Road. — Alexandra Kushnir archive photo

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