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When a call is placed to 911 for an illness or injury, the call is typically answered by an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Dispatcher. This person normally has first-hand EMS experience and training in priority dispatching of medical emergencies. The dispatcher may ask a number of questions to help assess the nature and severity of the injury or illness. At times the dispatcher may give the caller specific patient care instructions to maximize the success of the injury or illness outcome.

The EMS Dispatcher then sends the appropriate EMS professionals to the scene. These professionals may be educated as First Responders (requires about 40 hours of training), EMT-Basics (requires about 110 hours of training), EMT-Intermediates (requires 200-400 hours of training) or Paramedics (requires 1,000 or more hours of training). The make-up of an EMS response team is a local decision based upon local resources and the priorities of those who fund the resources. EMS professionals are serious about providing the best possible care under the best possible circumstances.

When EMS professionals are called, the injured or ill person is often transported to the hospital in an ambulance. EMS professionals work under protocols approved by local physicians. Many of these doctors are members of the National Association of EMS Physicians. The doctor oversees the care of patients in EMS systems, and is knowledgeable about patient care interventions and how EMS systems deliver care. Typically the doctors work in conjunction with local EMS leaders to assure quality patient care.

Emergency Medical Services may be provided by a fire department, an ambulance service, a county or government-based service, a hospital, or a combination of the above. EMS professionals may be paid or serve as volunteers in the community.

Every state in the Unites States has an EMS lead agency or State Office of Emergency Medical Services. These offices use their websites to provide information to the public. State EMS Offices have a great responsibility and are in place to assure the general public receives adequate patient care. State Offices are funded by state legislatures. Each state has a state director and these officials are members of the National Association of State EMS Officials.

State EMS Offices issue licenses to EMS professionals and ambulance service providers, along with a variety of other tasks. Currently 46 states require their EMS professionals to be certified by the National Registry of EMTs in order to obtain a license to practice as an EMS professional in their state. Some states require their EMS professionals to maintain certification with the NREMT as part of the continued license; others have their own license renewal process. All EMS professionals are required to complete continuing education. The Continuing Education Coordinating Board for Emergency Medical Services establishes guidelines for approval of courses and helps assure that EMS professionals receive a quality educational experience.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) sets the lead in establishing EMS education standards. The Congress has not designated or funded an EMS lead agency at the federal level, so EMS works with many federal agencies to help guide some national EMS agendas and issues.

There are over 1,000,000 EMS professionals delivering care in this nation and there are a number of EMS agencies that help EMS systems provide better patient care. These include the International Association of Fire Fighters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, the American Ambulance Association, the National Fire Academy, the Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services and the American College of Emergency Physicians. The National Registry of EMTs works with these organizations to assure standards meet public expectations for patient care. Everyone in EMS is involved in meeting these goals.

EMS professionals are represented by a variety of organizations depending on where they work. The National Association of EMTs represents EMS professionals from all types of services, (private, fire, volunteer, rural, urban, men and women) whereas other EMS professionals are represented by organizations such as the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Rescue and Emergency Care Association and the National Volunteer Fire Council. Many states also have EMS professional associations.

The NREMT encourages every American citizen to support or become involved in EMS.

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