Emergency Medical Services, more commonly known as EMS, is an essential public service. You can easily recognize EMS when you see ambulances and medical helicopters responding to incidents in our community, but EMS is much more than emergency medical response and transport. EMS is part of an intricate system of agencies and organizations; communications and transportation networks; trauma systems, as well as hospitals, trauma centers, and specialty care centers; rehabilitation facilities; and highly trained professionals —including volunteer and career prehospital personnel, physicians, nurses, therapists, administrators, government officials and an informed public that knows what to do in a medical emergency. Each player in the EMS system has an essential job to perform as part of a coordinated system of care. —Adapted from NHTSA
It is appropriate that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) be distinctively identified for the benefit of not only EMS providers but also their patients and the general public. Recognizing the need for a symbol that would represent this critical public service and be easily recognized by all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created the "Star of Life" and holds priority rights to the use of this registered certification mark.
Adapted from the personal Medical Identification Symbol of the American Medical Association, each bar on the "Star of Life" represents one of six EMS functions. The functions include:
4. On-Scene Care,
5. Care in Transit,
6. Transfer to Definitive Care.
The serpent and staff in the symbol portray the staff of Asclepius, an ancient Greek physician deified as the god of medicine. Overall, the staff represents medicine and healing, with the skin-shedding serpent being indicative of renewal.
The "Star of Life" has become synonymous with emergency medical care around the globe. This symbol can be seen as a means of identification on ambulances, emergency medical equipment, patches or apparel worn by EMS providers and materials such as books, pamphlets, manuals, reports, and publications that either have a direct application to EMS or were generated by an EMS organization. It can also be found on road maps and highway signs indicating the location of or access to qualified emergency medical care.