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What Does a Star of Life Symbolize? Its Meaning Will Amaze You

What Does a Star of Life Symbolize?
You must have seen this symbol in an emergency ambulance, a blue six-pointed star with white border and a snake wrapped around a rod. What does all this mean? WellnessKeen helps you understand what does a Star of Life symbolize and also throws some light on its interesting history.
Shalu Bhatti
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
Did You Know?
The Star of Life was designed as a result of a complaint that came from the American National Red Cross. The organization stated that the previous symbol used by ambulances―a safety orange cross resembled their logo to a great extent. Which is why, the Chief of the EMS Branch, Leo R. Schwartz, came up with a new symbol called the 'Star of Life'.
Universally recognized as the symbol for 'Emergency Medical Care', the Star of Life was adapted from the American Medical Association identification symbol. It was trademarked on February 1, 1977 in the name of the National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration (NHTSA). Interestingly, after the expiration of the trademark, this logo was "given" to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) in 1997, to be used as a symbol for EMS.

The use of this logo is strictly restricted to those who are qualified―through intense training and learning―to provide emergency medical assistance to those in need as per the Federal standards and guidelines. This logo is used on vehicles related to the emergency medical care; road maps and highway signs; apparels, badges, labels, puns, plaques, nameplates, etc., so as to identify that the bearer (be it an individual, vehicle, or a location symbol) is a qualified EMS provider.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Star of Life
Right from the six branches of the star, to the rod and serpent placed in its center, everything has a significant symbolism that together summarizes what the EMS constitute in totality. The following points will give you a brief explanation on each of the branches that stand for the six tasks executed by the emergency medical service providers; the implication of the snake emblem; and the necessity to always have a 'registered mark' on the logo.
The Six Branches
Each of the branch is linked with the six phases that involve the EMS response. The first two branches constitute the role of the citizens that call for EMS assistance, while the remaining four involve the tasks undertaken by these trained professionals. These are explained as under.
This phase is dominantly associated with the initial rescuers of the victim(s). The very first phase calls for those present at the time of the accident or incident―which are usually the untrained citizens that have witnessed the scene―to carefully observe and understand of the problem(s) involved in the scene, identify the potential dangers or threats to themselves and the others in the vicinity, and take feasible steps to keep themselves and the others safe at the accident scene.
Reporting to Doctor
The second phase is that of calling for professional help and reporting the incident. The emergency telephone numbers are generally redirected to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), where a trained professional quickly chalks out the type of medical assistance that needs to be dispatched and also guides the caller to follow some crucial steps to stabilize the situation until professionals arrive at the scene.
Response by Patient
This phase consists of the response of the untrained rescuers in reference to the guidance given over the reporting call. Immediate care and first aid steps are performed on the victim in the best way possible at the time. This helps to control the situation a little bit till the EMS ambulance arrives.
First Aid Process
This is the time where the EMS professionals arrive. These qualified practitioners provide immediate medical care to the victim(s) in the best way they can, on-scene.
Doctor with Patient
This is the stage where the victim is taken to the hospital through the ambulance or a helicopter, as per the situation demands. During the transportation, medical care is continuously provided by the EMS practitioners.
The sixth and final phase is when the victim is transferred to the specialized care unit and is given the appropriate treatment. Hence, the EMS professionals ensure that the victim is safely carried to the hospital without delay, and get the ultimate treatment for the injuries inflicted.
The Rod of Asclepius
After having discussed the importance of the six branches in the Star of Life, let us now understand the emphasis of the Rod of Asclepius. Asclepius is the Greek god of medicine and healing, and his symbol is a rod/staff with a snake coiled around it. The snake is believed to be the symbol of rejuvenation and youth due to its ability to shed its skin as it grows. Also, a serpent is a sign of attention, something that is inevitably needed in medical treatments. Similarly, the rod or staff too, denotes a symbol of support that prevents one from falling into the clutches of sickness.

The rod and the serpent have also been linked to the Bible. The Book of Numbers in the Old Testament mentions the story of The Bronze Serpent. The following is the excerpt taken from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
― Numbers 21:4-9

Therefore, the staff and serpent together is widely considered to be a symbol of healing and medicine.
The Registered Certification Mark
Being a registered trademark symbol, it is crucial to have the encircled capital R sign, '®' placed adjacently to the Star of Life, as shown in the image at the beginning of this article. The only exception to this rule is when there is no place adjacent to the Star of Life, such as, in case of a lapel pin.
Over the years, the Star of Life has become a universal symbol of the life-saving EMS professionals. Perhaps, earlier, before understanding the significance of this symbol, we looked at it quite plainly. However, now, after having understood the true meaning behind it, we will look at it with all the more honor and respect. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that the bearers of this symbol are Stars that give us Life―they are truly, the Stars of Life!