The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Museum, a testament to the busiest provider of pre-hospital emergency services in the country at 1.4 million annual calls, was originally established in 1997.
On Friday afternoon, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly renovated 400-square-foot museum, which contains antique uniforms and equipment and highlights those who have dedicated their lives to helping New Yorkers during times of emergency.
“Remembering history and honoring those who came before us are celebrated traditions of the FDNY,” said Nigro. “The rededication of this museum is a testament of our tradition and we look forward to sharing the history and tenacity of our dedicated members.”
The museum is located on the grounds of Fort Totten in Bayside inside an EMS training facility at 325 Pratt Avenue. It is usually closed to the public, but will be open this week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until May 25 in recognition of EMS Week.
In 1996, Nigro oversaw the merger of the city's ambulance services and the Fire Department. He said the original thinking was that a merger with the FDNY would improve ambulance service across the five boroughs.
“Now I think it is the men and women of EMS who have made the FDNY better,” Nigro said last week. “The EMS brought something to this department that wasn't expected at the time.
“I knew their job was hard and demanding,” he added, “but you get a new respect for the work they do when you ride along with them for a night.”
Chief of Department James Leonard said the museum isn't just about preserving the past, but about inspiring new members of EMS.
“It's great to remember where we've been, but it's more important to know where we are going in the future,” he said.
J.P. Martin spent 32 years as a member of EMS. With a background in graphic design, he was instrumental in the layout and design of the new museum and the organization of artifacts and exhibits to tell a chronological story.
“We looked for artifacts and photographs, of which there are very few that have survived,” he said. “For the first 80 years or so, EMS was a very transient workforce. Doctors would work in the ambulance for a couple of months, and then go back and work in the hospital.
“What was left was a new crew, so there was not a lot of building on skills and information,” Martin added. “We really wanted to tell the story of how the system in the 1970s really started to become a professional career.”
Martin agreed that he museum is a way for new members of EMS to get a sense of the history of the department, but he hopes that for the week it is open to the public visitors gain an appreciation for the rigors of the job.
“I think our people are kind of under-recognized for the work they do,” he said. “They see a box go by and there might be a patient in there or not, so we want to give them a sense of what our people do and the training that's required to get to the level of an EMT."