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EMS: Information for the Public

This page has general information about what EMS (Emergency Medical Services) does. We also answer FAQs (frequently asked questions) and list prevention and safety resources.

For children, visit Emergency Medical Services for Children.


Expand a question to learn more. Questions are grouped by topic.

EMS overview

EMS is the lead state agency for emergency medical care in Wisconsin. Its purpose is to provide resources, leadership, and oversight to serve the EMS system and Wisconsin communities.

EMS includes services you get in an emergency before you go to the hospital for treatment (for example, paramedic and ambulance services).

EMS started in Wisconsin in 1968. Learn more about EMS History.

Yes. EMS follows the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) of 1996 Privacy Rule. 

Learn more about HIPAA Privacy Rule—Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have a problem with EMS, you have the right to file a complaint. The EMS office receives and reviews all complaints about:

  • EMS staff.
  • EMS services.
  • Certified EMS training centers.

Learn more about EMS Complaints and Investigation.

EMS professionals follow specific triage protocols during emergencies.

Learn more about the Wisconsin Trauma Care System and Triage Protocols.

Wisconsin keeps data on all ambulance runs through the Wisconsin Ambulance Run Data System Elite

This is a secure, web-based system for reporting data. Ambulance service providers add their information to the online system.

View EMS data.

WEAVR is a secure, web-based volunteer registration system for health care and behavioral health providers. 

Volunteers may be asked to take critical response and recovery roles after a major public health emergency.

EMS state rules and regulations

Statutes and administrative code from Wisconsin State Legislature define rules for EMS:

EMS follows state laws and rules. Wisconsin Stat. § 256.08, State EMS Activities requires EMS to prepare a state plan.

The plan defines priorities for what to change in the state’s EMS system within two years of writing the plan.

View Wisconsin EMS State Plan, P-00576.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) issues regular EMS guidance. It updates providers and other interested groups on details related to EMS process and procedure.

View Department of Public Health (DPH) EMS Numbered Memos.

The EMS board is a group of professionals that offers recommendations to DHS about EMS topics. The governor appoints EMS board members.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders

DNR orders are defined in Wisconsin law—Wis. Stat. ch. 154.

A DNR order is something a doctor writes. It tells emergency health care workers not to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if your heart stops or you can’t breathe. If you don’t have a DNR order, the care team will try CPR.

In Wisconsin, a doctor can issue a DNR order for qualified patients. See Wis. Stat. § 154.17(4).

It’s most helpful to set up a DNR order before you have an emergency. DNR orders only focus on CPR. The purpose of the DNR order is to make sure that your wishes are honored, no matter what facility you go to in an emergency.

Learn more about DNR Information.

Prevention and safety resources

Select a link to learn more about topics that relate to EMS:

Last revised January 16, 2024