Wake County EMS - A Full System

Paramedics talking in front of ambulances

The primary component of the EMS System is our paramedics and EMTs who respond in ambulances to 911 calls for help. Paramedics are the most educated and trained emergency care providers typically used in the United States. They use advanced skills, medications and procedures to provide medical care to our Wake County community.  

We have several other responders, special teams and specialty response vehicles to help provide that care. 

We also partner with several agencies outside of our EMS department to help us take care of people.  Below are some of the other components of our EMS system. 


Other Components of the Full EMS System

911 Emergency Communications Centers

Local 9-1-1 centers, including Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center and Cary Emergency Communications Center, use advanced dispatch systems to triage calls and provide callers with important medical instructions. They regularly work with our EMS medical director and staff to collaborate and maintain national standards on the medical instructions provided to the 911 caller. 

The 911 center uses GPS to find and dispatch the closest EMS unit to any emergency.  The 911 telecommunicators continue to collect more information while EMS is on the way, and they also provide the caller with invaluable lifesaving instructions for the person in need until we arrive. 

800 Megahertz Radio System

Wake County uses a digital Motorola Smartzone 800-MHz system for all communications. This allows for different agencies from EMS, law enforcement and fire to talk to each other at the scene of an emergency. 

First Responders

Since the events of 9/11, the term first responder has come to be thought of by the general public as a reference to all emergency responders. But within the EMS system, the term has always had a more specific meaning and refers to a responder unit that may be able to arrive at a medical emergency first and provide basic medical intervention while the EMS paramedics are on the way. First Responders are dispatched to many emergencies in addition EMS. All of the fire departments within Wake County work hard to serve as first responders for our EMS system. 

Hospital Systems

Three hospital systems operate in Wake County, which include  Duke Health, UNC Rex Healthcare and WakeMed. Together they provide a comprehensive list of services to the community, such as: 

  • Level One and Level Three Trauma Centers 
  • Heart Centers 
  • Stroke Centers 
  • Critical Care 
  • Multiple Emergency Departments 
  • Several Free Standing EDs 
  • Children's Emergency Department Women's Pavilion and Birth Centers 
  • Cancer Centers 

Each of the hospital systems work directly with EMS on our Peer Review Team to collaborate on EMS practices in the County.  All are also represented on the Quality Management Council, either through their nurse liaison or physician members. 

EMS System Director

The Wake County EMS System is headed by EMS Director Chris Colangelo. He is ultimately responsible for operations, department direction, and oversight of the EMS System.   

Learn more about Chief Colangelo and the entire EMS leadership team here.


Non Emergency Ambulance Service

Although non-emergency and scheduled ambulance services are not technically part of the EMS system, there are several operated by private providers and authorized to function inside Wake County.  This allows the EMS department to remain dedicated to 911 ambulance response without having to expend resources on non-emergency and scheduled ambulance service.  

You can learn more about them here.