About EMS

This page has been automatically translated from English. MSDH has not reviewed this translation and is not responsible for any inaccuracies.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is a specially organized system that provides personnel, facilities and equipment for the effective and coordinated delivery of emergency medical services within a geographical area. An effective EMS system involves many different agencies and organizations working together seamlessly to provide rapid emergency medical care to patients and ensure that the right patient gets to the right hospital at the right time.

In Mississippi, the emergency medical services system is extraordinary in that member services and personnel not only provide the highest standards of pre-hospital care for the citizens and visitors of Mississippi, but ensure that patients are delivered to one of the many specialized facilities in one of the state's systems of care: the Mandatory Trauma Care System or the Voluntary STEMI System.

The Bureau of Emergency Medical Services organizes, regulates and maintains a statewide program to improve emergency medical care. Further, it coordinates agency resources in "all hazard" planning and response to disasters. This includes both incidents involving weapons of mass destruction as well as natural disasters, from hurricanes on the coast to ice storms in the Delta.

The Bureau works with its sister Bureaus in the Office of Emergency Planning and Response to implement and coordinate the agency's Emergency Response Plans and Emergency Response Team with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS), the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and other agencies for all disasters including weapons of mass destruction and bioterrorism.

Star of Life

It is appropriate that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) be distinctively identified for the benefit of not only EMS providers but also their patients and the general public. Recognizing the need for a symbol that would represent this critical public service and be easily recognized by all, 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 personal Medical Identification Symbol of the American Medical Association, each bar on the Star of Life represents one of six EMS functions. The functions include:

  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 portray 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 being indicative of renewal.

The Star of Life has become synonymous with emergency medical care around the globe. This identifying symbol can be seen on ambulances, emergency medical equipment, patches or apparel worn by EMS providers, and on materials such as books, pamphlets, manuals, reports, and publications that either have a direct application to EMS or were generated by an EMS organization. It can also be found on road maps and highway signs indicating the location of or access to qualified emergency medical care.

EMS System Overview: Mississippi EMS

The Emergency Medical Services Act of 1973 established standards for the organization of emergency services. Prior to 1974, government involvement in emergency medical services was primarily limited to providing an emergency department in the public hospital. Private operators, predominantly funeral homes, provided emergency transportation.

The Mississippi EMS Act of 1974, and subsequent amendments, authorized the Mississippi State Department of Health to create a Division of Emergency Medical Services. The Act authorized this Division to license all ambulance services in Mississippi, to require specific equipment and standards for emergency vehicles, to provide for training and certification of emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and to assist with the creation and the provision of technical assistance.

Delivery of EMS

EMS Services are typically provided in response to a medical emergency reported through the 9-1-1 system. A 9-1-1 call placed from any telephone is automatically routed to the appropriate designated Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

Once the call is received, the nature of the medical emergency is determined, the call is prioritized, appropriate personnel and equipment are dispatched and pre-arrival instructions are given if appropriate. 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.

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.. 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.

Licensure and System Evaluation

Mississippi Code of 1972 Annotated requires that ambulance inspections be performed at least two times per year. The Licensure and System Evaluation Branch of the Division of EMS Licensure, Certification and Evaluation assures compliance with Mississippi EMS: The Law, Rules and Regulations. This includes licensing ambulance services by location and issuing permits for each vehicle operated. Licenses are issued for ground and air ambulance services.

The Branch is responsible for developing and implementing a statewide performance improvement plan for prehospital care. The Statewide Performance Improvement Plan for Prehospital Care will establish a framework for monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of care being rendered by local emergency medical services.

Ground Ambulance Services

There are five types of ground ambulances that transport patients in Mississippi and one type for supervisory and or sprint type vehicles:

  • Type I ambulances are cab and chassis ambulances with separation between the cab and patient care box.
  • Type II ambulances are van-type ambulances.
  • Type III ambulances are cab and chassis ambulances without partition between the cab and chassis.
  • Type IV ambulances are heavy duty ambulances without partition between the cab and chassis.
  • Invalid vehicles are stretcher vans that may be Type I, II, or III.
  • Special-use vehicles are supervisory or sprint cars permitted for emergency operation in connection with emergency medical service calls.

Included in the above types of ambulances are specialty care transport units which provide specialized services such as neonatal and cardiac transfers. The majority of permitted ground ambulances are Type II.

Air Ambulance Services

Air service is provided through helicopter and fixed wing aircraft. Twenty-three licensed helicopter services provide emergency scene flights to designated areas of the state with 37 helicopters. Complete state coverage of emergency air ambulance service has almost been accomplished. Non-emergency coverage is available statewide through seventeen helicopter and four fixed-wing aircraft.

The licensure branch of the Bureau, under statutory authority (MS Code 41-59-9), licenses ambulance services by location and issues permits for each vehicle the service operates. Licenses are issued for ground and air services.

In Mississippi, corporate ambulance service ownership exceeds the number of hospital and government owned ambulance services. This trend is similar to the national trend towards the privatization of ambulance services. However, 41 of Mississippi's EMS air and ground providers are hospital based, which include public, private, non-profit, church and public-lease hospitals.

Every ambulance vehicle permitted in the State of Mississippi is inspected at least two times each year to ensure compliance with EMS Law, Rules, and Regulations.


The licensure branch assures compliance with the Mississippi EMS: The Law, Rules and Regulations.

This includes the licensing of ambulance services and inspection of vehicles. The compliance branch licenses ambulance services by the level of care they provide. These levels include:

  • Invalid transport services
  • Basic Life Support (BLS)
  • Special Use EMS Vehicle (SUEMSV)
  • Advanced Life Support – Paramedic (ALS-P)
  • Advanced Life Support – Paramedic / Air (ALSP-Air)
  • Critical Care Life Support – Paramedic / Air (CCLS-Air)
Last reviewed on Jan 7, 2016

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Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866-HLTHY4U web@HealthyMS.com
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