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Your Role in the EMS System (Emergency Medical Services)

Emergency Medical Services, more commonly known as EMS, is a system

that provides emergency medical care. Once it is activated by an incident

that causes serious illness or injury, the focus of EMS is emergency medical

care of the patient(s).


Emergency medical services exists to fulfill the basic principles of first aid,

which are to Preserve Life, Prevent Further Injury, and Promote Recovery.

This common theme in medicine is demonstrated by the "star of life".

The Star of Life (where each of the 'arms' is used to represent the six stages

of high quality pre-hospital care) are:


 1. Early detection – members of the public find the incident and understand the problem.

 2. Early reporting – the first persons on scene make a call to the emergency medical services (911) 

       and provide details to enable a response to be mounted.

 3. Early response – the first professional (EMS) rescuers are dispatched and arrive on scene 

       as quickly as possible, enabling care to begin.

 4. Good on-scene/ field care – the emergency medical service provides appropriate and 

       timely interventions to treat the patient at the scene of the incident without doing further harm.

 5. Care in transit  – the emergency medical service load the patient into suitable transport 

       and continue to provide appropriate medical care throughout the journey.

 6. Transfer to definitive care – the patient is handed over to an appropriate care setting, 

       such as the emergency department at a hospital, into the care of physicians.

Recognize that an Emergency Exists


The key word is Unusual.


If you notice that something is unusual or "not quite right", there could be

an emergency.

Use your senses.

Are there unusual Sights, Sounds, Noises, Orders or Appearances?

Did the hairs on the back of your neck bristle?

Pay Attention.


Your Safety is ALWAYS your Number One Priority.

If you become another victim, you will be of no use in helping someone.

Before you "rush in" to something, Stop.

"Look up and down and all around and take a little sniff."


Lookaround to see if there is anything that could be dangerous.

Take a little sniff (not a deep breathe) to see if you smell anything unusual.

Listen to the sounds around you. Is something out of the ordinary?

Does the person (or people) look "odd" - is the colour of the skin different?

Is the person sweating in cool weather or shivering in hot weather?

Does he seem lethargic or too energetic?


If you feel it is safe to approach the scene, do so cautiously.

Decide to Act


Your decision to act could mean the difference between Life and Death.


Some people "jump right in" and some are afraid to act.

Each person has his own reasons for not acting, such as fear of hurting someone,

or doing the wrong thing, fear of being sued and fear of catching a disease.


Training is key. Taking a CPR and First Aid Class or other training

will teach you how to handle emergencies and to minimize the possibility

of doing further harm.


Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable

assistance to those who are, or who they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril,

or otherwise incapacitated. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders'

hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional

injury or wrongful death.


Catching a disease can be mitigated by using personal protection, such as

wearing gloves and using a breathing barrier when giving rescue breaths.


If, for whatever reason, you decide not to give care or cannot give care,

at least Call 9-1-1 and report the circumstances to the authorities.

Activating the Emergency Medical Services System


Read the page about Calling 9-1-1 to learn more.

Give Care until EMS arrives and takes over


Once you decide to give care, you must stay with your victim(s) until EMS

or Law Enforcement arrives on scene and takes over.

If you start care then leave the scene, that is considered "abandonment".

If you leave the scene for a specific purpose (for example - to call for help

or to get a first aid kit or other supplies) and come right back, that is acceptable.


There are 5 times you may stop care (but stay on scene) -

1. When the scene becomes unsafe, move to a safer location.

If you can safely move your victim, take him with you.

If not, get to safety. Do not become another victim!

2. When your victim shows "signs of life".

Let us say your victim was not breathing. If you did a "head tilt- chin lift" and

he started breathing, you would stop care and monitor him until he needed further care or EMS arrived.

3. When someone of equal or higher training comes to help you.

You may stop caring for the victim, but do not leave. Your help may still be needed. Wait for EMS to arrive.

4. When an AED tells you to stop.

If you are doing CPR, do not stop to put on an AED.

The person who brought it should be the one to attach it to the victim.

5. When you are too exhausted (not just tired) to continue.


Once EMS arrives, continue doing what you are doing until they tell you to stop.

They will also need some information from you, but they will be busy caring for the victim, 

so you may need to wait a bit.