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Star of Life

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) should be distinctly identified for the benefit of EMS clinicians, their patients and the general public. Recognizing the need for a clear symbol to represent this critical public service, 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 medical identification symbol of the American Medical Association, each bar on the "Star of Life" represents one of six EMS functions:

  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 symbolize 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 indicating renewal.

The "Star of Life" has become synonymous with emergency medical care around the globe. This symbol is a means of identification on ambulances, emergency medical equipment, patches or apparel worn by EMS clinicians. It also adorns materials such as books, pamphlets, manuals, reports, and publications that either have a direct EMS application or were generated by an EMS organization. On maps and highway signs, the symbol indicates the location of or access to qualified emergency medical care.

Learn more about how to use the "Star of Life" from the NHTSA "Star of Life" Manual.

If you’re interested in using the Star of Life, please contact the Public Affairs office at  for more information.

Last Updated: 05/17/2023