EMS Week Fun Facts

As we recognize our heroes during EMS Week, it also gives us an opportunity to take a look at EMS through the years.

Historical EMS Facts: A Look Back

  • The word ambulance is derived from the Latin “ambulare” which means to move about. It was used to describe the lifting or moving about of patients on two- wheeled carts. The Spanish first used such carts for emergency transport in 1487.
  • In 1948, the first defibrillation took place in an operating room on patient undergoing lung surgery. When the patient’s heart stopped, the surgeon performed internal massage on the man’s heart while a make-shift defibrillator was rigged. Operating room workers hooked two copper electrodes to an examining lamp, touched the other ends to the man’s heart, and shocked it into normal rhythm. Learn moreOff Site Icon.
  • The first EMS system in the US was located in Cincinnati Ohio in 1865. Hospital interns used horse-drawn wagons as ambulances.
  • In 1966, before the conception of EMS, patients were transported in mortuary vehicles.
  • In 1969, Maryland established the first statewide EMS system which included an air ambulance.
  • Paramedics used to treat a flail chest with sandbags.

The Star of Life

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.

Each bar on the "Star of Life" represents one of six EMS functions. The functions include:

  1. Detection
  2. Reporting
  3. Response
  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. 

Source: NHTSA EMS ems.gov

EMS Facts and Figures

  • EMS treat 25-30 million patients a year.
  • There are four nationally defined levels of EMS professionals: Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) and Paramedic. 
  • The top schools for EMS training:
    • Drury University (Springfield, MO)
    • Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
    • University of Maryland (Baltimore County)
  • For EMS Providers, training and education never stops. 
    • EMR - 15 hours of continuing education
    • EMT - 40 hours of continuing education
    • Advance - 60 hours of continuing education
    • Paramedic - 84 hours of continuing education
  • Approximate number of EMS workers (EMT’s and Paramedics):
    • US – 700,000
    • Ohio – 31,000
    • City of Dayton (EMS workers in the City limits) – 1,500
  • 70% of all EMS providers are male. About 50% of EMT Basics and about 5% of Paramedics are volunteers.
  • The number of EMS workers are less now than prior to September 11, 2001.
  • There are 15, 276 ambulance services in the US. They use 840,669 ground vehicles.
  • The types of Systems in the US:
    • Fire Department with cross-trained EMS personnel: 40%
    • Government or Third Service: 14.5%
    • Private company: 18%
    • Other: 8 %
    • Hospital-based service: 7%
    • Fire Department with separate EMS personnel: 9%

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, NAEMT

Content Updated: May 16, 2016

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