National EMS Museum People Files. NEMSM-0003. Peter Safar Collection

Dr. Peter Safar

As an intensive care specialist in the late 1950s, Dr. Peter Safar pioneered the development of the ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation) of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He demonstrated in a series of experiments on paralyzed human volunteers that mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing could maintain satisfactory oxygen levels in the non-breathing victim, and showed that even laypeople could effectively perform these techniques. Working with then-dollmaker Åsmund Laerdal, Safar gave birth to the noted EMS training tool Resusci Anne.

His CPR studies with the Baltimore Fire Department led him to realize that prehospital care across the nation was completed via station wagons or hearses, with no treatment given en route. Subsequently he, the Chief of the Baltimore City Fire Department Ambulance Division and the SWAB Wagon Company designed a modern ambulance, with a large compartment for a patient bed and seating for an attendant. It had an oxygen source and equipment to insert an airway tube to support breathing. He then taught Baltimore firefighters to add intubation to basic CPR, leading to the first ambulance staffed by trained emergency medical responders.

Safar also went on to found the Freedom House Enterprises Ambulance Service in Pittsburgh, staffed by paramedics who were trained along national guidelines Safar helped create. Already responsible for developing benchmarks for EMT education and training, identifying the standards for mobile intensive care ambulance design and equipment and putting EMS on the path to recognition as a valuable component of acute medical care in this country, Safar remained vital to the advance of resuscitation to the very end of his life, continuing to spearhead research in hypothermic therapies, some of which are seen in EMS practice today.

Above submitted NEMSM June 2008 by Cygnus Business Publications

National EMS Museum Resources

To donate papers, publications and artifacts to the National EMS Museum. Please contact us at info@emsmuseum .org

Additional Resources

Peter Josef Safar Obituary. National Library of Health and Medicine.