The Star of Life

Star of LifeThe Star of Life (SOL) was designed by a Mr. Leo R. Schwartz, EMS Branch Chief at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA ) United States of America. The star of life was created in 1973 as a common symbol to be used by US emergency medical services ( EMS) and medical goods pertaining to EMS. 
It was after complaints from the American National Red Cross objecting to the use of the Omaha orange cross by ambulance services throughout America which clearly imitated the red cross symbol. The NHTSA investigated and felt that the complaint was justified. 
However the use of the red cross symbol can still be seen on military vehicles, hospital tents and buildings to protect wounded civilian and military personnel as per the Geneva Convention in times of war. 
The six barred blue symbol was adapted from the medical identification symbol and was registered on February 1,1977 with the commission of patents and trade marks in the name of the NHTSA. The trade mark expired in 1997. Each bar on the Star of Life represents one of six functions.
They are as follows: 

  • Detection,
  • Reporting,
  • Response, 
  • On Scene Care,
  • Care in Transit,
  • Transfer to Definitive Care. 

The snake and staff in the symbol portray the staff of Aesculapius, son of Apollo, the staff represents medicine and healing. The Star of Life symbol can be seen as a means of identification on ambulances and ambulance equipment world wide. Its use on EMS patches in the US and other countries signifies the wearer has been trained to meet National or State Training Standards as laid down from time to time.

© Gorham EMS 2004