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The Star of Life represents emergency medical services such as ambulances.

The Star of Life is a blue, six-pointed star, outlined with a white border and usually featuring the Rod of Asclepius in the center. The symbol was originally designed and governed by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). It has become a symbol of the emergency medical services in multiple countries.


Prior to the development of the Star of Life, American ambulances most commonly were designated with a safety orange cross on a square background. In 1973, the American Red Cross complained that the orange cross too closely resembled their logo of a red cross on a white background, the usage of which is restricted by the Geneva Conventions.[1]

The Star of Life was designed by Leo R. Schwartz, Chief of the EMS Branch, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States,[2] and adapted from the Universal Medical Identification Symbol[3] that had been trademarked by the American Medical Association in 1967 and in use since 1963.[citation needed] The newly designed Star of Life logo was trademarked on February 1, 1977 with the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks in the name of the National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration (registration number 1058022).[4][citation needed] The U.S. patent trademark is still active.[5]


Six points on the Star of Life

The six branches of the star are symbols of the six main tasks executed by rescuers all through the emergency chain:[6]

  1. Detection: The first rescuers on the scene, usually untrained civilians or those involved in the incident, observe the scene, understand the problem, identify the dangers to themselves and the others, and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety on the scene (environmental, electricity, chemicals, radiation, etc.).
  2. Reporting: The call for professional help is made and dispatch is connected with the victims, providing emergency medical dispatch.
  3. Response: The first rescuers provide first aid and immediate care to the extent of their capabilities.
  4. On scene care: The EMS personnel arrive and provide immediate care to the extent of their capabilities on-scene.
  5. Care in transit: The EMS personnel proceed to transfer the patient to a hospital via an ambulance or helicopter for specialized care. They provide medical care during the transportation.
  6. Transfer to definitive care: Appropriate specialized care is provided at the hospital.

Common useEdit

An ambulance in Lausanne (Switzerland) marked with multiple Stars of Life.

While no agency is tasked solely with enforcing its use as a mark of certification, the Star of Life has traditionally been used as a means of identification for medical personnel, equipment, and vehicles. Many ambulance services mark the symbol on their vehicles, and ambulance crews often wear the design as part of their uniform. It appears on various medical textbooks as well as on a wide range of merchandise aimed at the medic market. In hospitals and other buildings, elevators that are marked with the symbol indicate that the elevator is large enough to hold a stretcher.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Star of Life - The EMS Symbol". South Dakota EMS. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  2. ^ "The Star of Life". Gorham EMS. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  3. ^ Universal Medical Identification Symbol. Am J Dis Child. 1964;107(5):439. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1964.02080060441001
  4. ^ "History of National Registry of EMTs". Archived from the original on 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  5. ^ "USPTO Trademark Search of US Serial #73033491" U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved on 17 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Star of Life". Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  7. ^ "Articles:Elevator Car Sizes". 2011-07-11. Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2012-09-25.

External linksEdit