Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program: Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

Stroke and EMS

In the United States, stroke remains a leading cause of death and serious long-term disability, including paralysis, speech impairments, and other significant disabilities.

When 911 is called and emergency medical services (EMS) are involved in the care and transportation of a stroke patient, those EMS providers play a crucial role in helping people survive a stroke and in reducing long-term disabilities. It is important that local EMS providers know how to identify stroke victims, make quick and accurate decisions on the care of the stroke patient, and determine an appropriate hospital destination.

Unfortunately, less than one-half of all stroke patients in Wisconsin arrive at the emergency department (ED) by ambulance. EMS providers can play a significant role in educating the community on recognizing the early warning signs of a stroke and the importance of calling 911.

A training on Stroke Recognition and Treatment for EMS Providers is available online. This training focuses on stroke recognition and treatment for the EMS provider and was developed and is being offered through the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program. One hour of continuing education will be provided for completion.

Pre-Hospital Actions

When 911 is called, Emergency Medical Dispatch should be able to identify potential acute stroke patients, preferably through a Medical Priority Dispatch System during the 911 call. Identification of a potential stroke patient allows for appropriate EMS dispatch and hospital destination determination.

EMS providers should assess the patient using a validated pre-hospital stroke scale (e.g., Cincinnati, Los Angeles), obtain a blood glucose, obtain a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) (if available), determine an appropriate hospital destination based on ability to care for an acute stroke patient, and report their assessment findings prior to arrival at that hospital.

Communication between EMS and ED should occur so ED staff anticipates the arrival of the acute stroke patient. Effective communication between EMS and ED enables activation of the stroke team for rapid triage of the incoming stroke patient. Plain language communication using terms such as “Stroke Alert” or “Neuro Alert” can enhance the care the stroke patient receives once at the hospital. Hospitals and EMS should collaborate on education and protocols in the care of the acute stroke patient.

EMS providers are the front-line health care providers in recognizing stroke and decreasing the long-term disabilities associated with an acute stroke.

Resilience is Important for First Responders

Building resilience—the ability to adapt and recover from adversity—within ourselves, our relationships, and in our communities matters. When we find healthy ways to cope with trauma and toxic stress, especially during the tough times, we take a step closer to becoming more resilient. Resilient Wisconsin is here to help, by bringing together the latest mental and behavioral health self-care tools and trauma-informed practices.

Coverdell EMS Partner Opportunity

In an effort to reach the goals outlined above, the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program is inviting EMS agencies to become Coverdell EMS Partners, F-01647. (PDF) EMS Partners will be recognized on the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke Program website and will receive a press release template for local publicity.

The benefits of participating as a Coverdell EMS Partner include:

  • Access to the “Best Practices to Improve Coordinated Stroke Care for EMS Professionals” toolkit
  • Technical and face-to-face assistance to plan and implement stroke-related activities
  • Offerings of and invitations to educational opportunities meeting Wisconsin EMS licensure renewal requirements and the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) recertification requirements
  • Access to community education outreach materials
  • Peer-to-peer contact and mentoring with other EMS agencies to share best practices
  • Recognition on the state stroke program website
  • Satisfaction in advancing your knowledge and skills to benefit your community and your patients

EMS Partner Agreement, F-01647 (PDF)

As of January 2017, the City of Beloit Fire Department has become Wisconsin's first Coverdell Model EMS Partner. Model EMS Partners agree to additional engagement beyond that which is required of Coverdell EMS Partners. As a Model EMS Partner, the City of Beloit Fire Department will work closely with our first Model Hospital, Beloit Health System, to improve stroke systems of care.

To all of our partners, thank you for your outstanding commitment to stroke care excellence!

Participating EMS Providers

  • Aspirus MedEvac
  • Beaver Dam Fire Department
  • Bell Ambulance, Inc.
  • Black River Falls Fire Department - EMS Division
  • Bloomfield Genoa City Fire and Rescue
  • Blue River Rescue Squad
  • Burlington Rescue Squad
  • Butler Volunteer Fire Department
  • Cazenovia Area Ambulance Service
  • City of Beloit Fire Department
  • City of Pewaukee Fire Department
  • City of Two Rivers Fire Department
  • City of Wausau Fire Department
  • Cumberland Healthcare EMS
  • De Pere Fire Rescue
  • Deer-Grove EMS District
  • Door County Emergency Services
  • Elkhorn Fire Department - EMS Division
  • Erickson Ambulance Service
  • Fitch-Rona EMS District
  • Fond du Lac Fire and Rescue
  • Germantown Fire Department
  • Gold Cross Ambulance, Inc.
  • Grand Chute Fire Department
  • Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance
  • Gundersen Tri-State Regional Ambulance
  • Hillsboro EMS
  • Kenosha Fire Department - EMS Division
  • Lake Geneva Fire Department - EMS Division
  • Lauderdale - LaGrange Fire Department
  • Lebanon Fire Department - EMS
  • Lifestar EMS
  • Lodi Emergency Medical Service
  • Marquette County EMS
  • Marshall Area EMS
  • Marshfield Fire and Rescue Department
  • Milwaukee Fire Department
  • Montfort Rescue Squad, Inc.
  • Muscoda EMS
  • Ocooch Mountain Rescue
  • Oostburg Ambulance
  • Oregon Area Fire and EMS District
  • Oshkosh Fire Department
  • Paratech Ambulance Service
  • Potosi Rescue Squad, Inc.
  • Poynette - Dekorra Fire Department
  • Racine Fire Department
  • Reedsburg Area Ambulance Service Commission
  • Richland County Ambulance
  • River Falls EMS
  • Ryan Brothers Ambulance Madison and Fort Atkinson
  • Shawano Ambulance Service
  • Silver Lake Rescue Squad, Inc.
  • South Area Fire District
  • Southwest Health Emergency Medical Service
  • St Croix Valley EMS
  • Stoughton Area EMS
  • Sun Prairie Emergency Medical Services
  • Sussex Fire Department
  • Taylor County EMS
  • Tomah Area Ambulance
  • Town of Brookfield Fire Department
  • Town of Delavan Rescue Squad
  • Town of Lyons Fire and Rescue
  • Union Grove-Yorkville Fire Department Rescue Squad
  • UW Med Flight
  • Walworth Rescue Squad
  • Waushara County Emergency Medical Services
  • West Allis Fire Department
  • Williams Bay Rescue Squad
  • Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department
  • Yuba First Responders


Logo for the Wisconsin Coverdell Stroke ProgramMore Information:
John Bowser, PhD, Coverdell Program Director

Last Revised: March 2, 2021