William Baker | Andre H. Betit | Edward Gardner
John Kennedy | John Marechal | William Mattison | Alfred L. Pinsonneault, Jr.
the first ambulance for the squad
The Town of Bennington Rescue Squad was first organized in April of 1963 when it became clear that the need for an ambulance service in the area was necessary. A professional ambulance service had not worked out; the hospital could not afford to operate an ambulance service and the funeral directors, who by default, found them in the ambulance business, had neither the manpower nor equipment to continue offering the ambulance service. After five fatal accidents occurred in the area in one weekend, the decision was made to form a rescue squad. The Vermont State Police, the Hoosick Falls Rescue Squad, funeral directors and service clubs helped get the local group started.
On June 23, 1963 the Bennington Rescue Squad Responded to its first call for a standby for the Bennington Catholic High School Horse Show. The first emergency call was a motor vehicle accident in Woodford on June 29, 1963 with no patient transported.
Initially the ambulance and equipment were kept at the Tri-Mont Texaco Station owned by André Betit. In addition to housing the ambulance, while still servicing vehicles, Andre Betit dispatched calls during the day, with Bennington Police dispatching at night. In 1963 the squad purchased a garage on Safford Street. Over the course of being at Safford station, not only did the number of vehicles increase, so did the height. When the first crash rescue vehicle was purchased, a module crash truck, it was too tall for the entrance. The floor to the garage needed to be lowered to accommodate the height of the new vehicle. But with the increase in calls, and addition of ambulances, arose the need to increase the station size.
Marion Rabideau, and the crew that transported her (L-R); Rocky Crawford, Rabideau, Andy Wilkinson, Nick Mayer.
The land, on which the McKinley St. building is located, was part of the Benning Wentworth Grant of 1749. The land was reserved for the local minister. In 1763 a minister from Westfield, Massachusetts became the first resident of the land. Reverend Jedediah Dewey (1714-1778) was not only the first minister, but the first school teacher. Although there were disputes concerning the validity of land titles, Rev. Dewey retained the land and passed it on to his descendants for generations. The first time a deed was prepared for the land was two hundred thirteen years later. The descendants of Rev. Dewey sold the land to Bennington Rescue Squad in September of 1977 for $1.00. Prior to Bennington Rescue building their station, a saw mill made its home on the property. The footings of the mill are still visible in the Northwest corner of the land. When the original building was constructed, the saw mill remained until it deteriorated and was demolished. During the construction a garage adjacent to the current station was purchased and housed squad vehicles.
Numerous additions have been made, rendering the original building and grounds unrecognizable. Some of these changes include the “barn” being moved, office space, sleeping quarters, and a large expansion adding six bays to the North end of station. If you are around in 2077, be sure to open the time capsule that was placed within the corner stone in 1977 to find out just what you missed.
The rescue squad grew from an inexperienced group of community volunteers and evolved into a well trained professional organization. During the first thirty five years, Bennington Rescue did not charge for service. They relied completely on revenue from donations and fund drives. For years, coin cards were distributed every spring and picked up in the fall bringing in a majority of the income. The community benefited not only from devoted members answering the call for help, but for the personal time put into events such as parades, festivals, training’s and speaking to young aspiring life savers.
From its inception, Bennington Rescue received First Aid training from instructors of American Red Cross. In 1966, with the publication of the famous White Paper , formal Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training was created. Squad members traveled to Boston, MA for initial training before the first formal EMT course was brought to the Bennington area. The first instructor coordinator was André Betit with assistance of Advanced First Aid instructors including long time member Timothy Finney. The original course was eighty-hours long. The first ninety students from the Bennington area spent ten hours as an observer at the Putnam Memorial Hospital Emergency Department (now Southern Vermont Medical Center), before becoming certified EMT’s.
serving the community
Through the 80’s and 90’s training hours and requirements increased. Cutting-edge procedures such as the Esophageal Obturator Airway (EOA), Military anti-shock trousers (MAST), and intravenous therapy were introduced. Only two lifesaving medications were carried, Epinephrine and Narcan. Bennington Rescue met the challenges to provide the best care for our patients and community. In 2002 Bennington Rescue progressed to the Paramedic level responding to the hospital’s need for inter-facility care.
In the late 90’s Bennington Rescues’ call volume exceeded the ability for volunteer staff to handle. In an effort to reduce response times compensating the volunteers became a necessity. On March 9, 1999 the Squad hired its first full time employees. In the fall of 2002, after a national search, an Executive Director was appointed and the squad out of necessity became a more business ordinated organization. With the growth of the organization, the need for additional office staff to coordinate day-to-day operations and billing.
Operating an Emergency Medical Service in today ‘s environment requires a delicate balance between producing enough money to allow for adequate staffing and investment in new technologies, while also providing enough funding to absorb the cost of care for those patients who do not have the ability to pay for the services. Bennington Rescue consistently provides a high level of quality care to every patient and enhances the health of the people it serves through health promotions, health screenings, and training of our emergency medical personnel.
Bennington Rescue personnel volunteer hundreds of hours providing community services and leadership. Bennington Rescue’s support for community activities underscores its commitment to improving the lives of those served. Because Bennington Rescue, its volunteers and its employees contribute so much of their time, talents and resources to serve others, communities served by Bennington Rescue are better places to live and work.
In addition to the fleet of six ambulances, Bennington Rescue Squad utilizes a paramedic intercept vehicle, an all-terrain vehicle, a snowmobile, and a Mass Casualty Trailer.
The squad is proud of its achievements and grateful for the support it has received over the years from individuals, businesses and organizations. The founding fathers could never have imagined the transition our organization has made in fifty years. Beginning with a donated ambulance, and collecting coin cards for revenue, the volunteers made it work. Now guided by a committed volunteer Board of Directors, our fully paid critical care paramedic level service continues to serve Bennington and the surrounding communities.