- Trademarked in: 1977
- Designed By: Leo R. Schwartz
- Design: A blue six-point star that is outlined in a white border and features The Rod of Asclepius in the center. The Rod of Asclepius consists of a staff with a snake wrapped around it.
Before the 1970's, many ambulances used an orange cross on top of a white reflectorized background to demonstrate that they were emergency vehicles. This symbol changed in 1973, when the American National Red Cross complained that the orange cross was too similar to the Red Cross's symbol. In response, Leo R. Schwartz, who was the Chief of the EMS branch of the Highway Traffic Safety Administration, designed the Star of Life as a new symbol for the ambulances. Schwartz's design was adapted from the Medical Identification Symbol of the American Medical Association. The Star of Life was officially trademarked in the name of the National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration on February 1st, 1977.
Diagram of the Star of Life
The six branches of the star symbolize the six tasks of the emergency response chain. First is detection, each rescuer must observe the scene and understand the problem in order to insure everyone's safety on the scene. This could include observing the scene, electricity, chemicals, radiation, etc. The second step deals with reporting the problem and getting help for the individuals in danger. Third is response, where the first rescuers on the scene provide care to the extent of their abilities. The fourth branch symbolizes on scene care, where the EMS personnel provide care on scene, and the fifth branch stands for care in transit. Finally, the sixth branch of the star symbolizes a transfer to definitive care, where the correct and specialized care can be given to the injured person. The staff with a snake wrapped around it, referred to as The Rod of Asclepius, is a symbol of the Ancient Greek god Asclepius who supposedly had the power to heal anything and anyone.