EMERGENCY MEDICAL AND AMBULANCE SERVICES IN GUATEMALA

AT-A-GLANCE

TO CALL AN AMBULANCE IN GUATEMALA, DIAL:

  • 123 for Bomberos Voluntarios (Volunteer Fire Department)
  • 1554 for Bomberos Municipales (Municipal Fire Department)
  • 1500 for tourists who don’t speak Spanish

Guatemala’s prehospital emergency response system is growing and improving, but is still fragmented, primarily between rival fire departments (Bomberos Voluntarios and Bomberos Municipales) who are both tasked with providing the majority of the country’s emergency response. Who you should call depends on where you are in the country, so please consult our Guatemala EMS Coverage Map for specifics.

EMS Coverage Map: Guatemala
EMS Coverage Map: Guatemala

Return to the Global EMS Database home page

HOW CAN I CALL AN AMBULANCE IN GUATEMALA?

HOW DO I CALL FOR HELP?

What number you should call depends on where you are in the country, so please consult our Guatemala EMS Coverage Map for specifics.

In general, here are the numbers to call in ambulance in Guatemala:

  • Dial 123 for Bomberos Voluntarios
  • Dial 1554 for Bomberos Municipales
  • Dial 1500 for tourists who don’t speak Spanish. Dialing this from anywhere in Guatemala will put you in touch with a bilingual dispatcher from PROATUR, the government tourism call center that will forward your emergency and location to the nearest EMS, fire or police call center
CAN I CALL FOR HELP ANYWHERE?

Yes, but there is no current integrated centralized system to initiate EMS or disaster systems – please see the map above or links below for direct fire station phone numbers across Guatemala:

Different numbers do in fact exist for each of the separate ambulance providers and fire stations, as well. Calling the 3- and/or 4-digit public emergency numbers should put you directly in touch with the nearest station, but there’s no guarantee it will everywhere so it’s wise to take down direct station numbers just in case.

 

In communities where both fire departments have stations, both are frequently called to same incident. Some authorities publicly state this dual system is a benefit as the rivalry reduces response times.

WHAT OTHER EMERGENCY NUMBERS CAN I CALL?

In addition to the fire departments and Red Cross, Guatemala also has private ambulance providers who offer a range of services including:

  • Prehospital emergency medical response
  • Inter-facility transfers
  • Medical evacuation – ground and air transport
  • Medical attention at special events

The majority of these services, providing domestic and/or international ambulance services, are based in Guatemala City, and are included here.

Private Ground Ambulance in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY

 

SUCHITEPÉQUEZ

 

Air Ambulance in Guatemala

 GUATEMALA CITY
WHAT ABOUT IN DISASTERS?
ARE THE RESPONDERS TRAINED?

Yes, the Guatemala Fire Department (CBV) has overseen the development and implementation of a range of technical training courses for their volunteers. According to their website, certified training is offered in:

  • Prehospital first aid
  • Emergency medical technician – basic, intermediate and advanced
  • Firefighting
  • Search and Rescue – Collapsed structure, confined spaces, canine, aquatic
  • HAZMAT
  • Incident Command System
  • Mental health crises
  • Demining, created out of the 2005 Peace Accords after the Guatemalan civil war

 

Information regarding the training of the Cuerpo de Bomberos Municipales (CBM) or Red Cross Guatemala has not been found online as of July 2017.

HOW WILL I GET TRANSPORTED?
WHERE WILL I BE TRANSPORTED TO?
HOW WILL I PAY?

According to a 2015 article (Bose and Bream) studying inter-facility transfers provided by government ambulance services in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemalans were charged USD$31 per transport. And, not uncommon to such services in resource-limited settings, “Patients and their families are expected to pay for ambulance services in full prior to transport (for both public and private ambulance transport).”

ADDITIONAL INFO

COMMON EMERGENCIES AND RECOMMENDED VACCINATIONS

Common Emergencies in Guatemala

  • Road Traffic Injuries
  • Inter-Personal Violence
  • Hurricanes
  • Drownings
  • Zika Virus is also a risk in Guatemala: 
    Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions

    Read the CDC’s Zika Travel Notice for Guatemala

 

Vaccinations for Guatemala

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), different groups of travelers will require different vaccinations for travel in Guatemala:

  • All Travelers
    • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
    • Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
    • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
    • Polio vaccine
    • Your yearly flu shot
  • Most Travelers
    • Hepatitis A
    • Typhoid
  • Some Travelers
    • Hepatitis B
    • Malaria
    • Rabies
    • Yellow Fever – “There is no risk of yellow fever in Guatemala The government of Guatemala requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US.” See full list here.

Read more about travel in Guatemala at the CDC website:  https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/guatemala/ (Last accessed: Aug. 7, 2017)

HISTORY
  • 1951 – Large fire consumed great portion of Guatemala City
    • No formal EMS or disaster planning system at time
      • Led to formation of Cuerpo Bomberos Voluntarios (CBV) by Chilean
        • Initially solely voluntary, funding from private donations only
        • Firefighting only
        • Sought First Aid Training from local MDs as need for medical attention on-scene and en route became apparent
        • Splints, basic First Aid kit
        • Eventually all members began serving as firefighter and medical providers
  • 1957 – disagreements between founders of CBV
    • Led to formation of Bomberos Municipales (Municipal Fire Department)
      • Under jurisdiction of municipal government – primary patron, first received funding in 1994
    • According to their website, the first stations were established in Coatepeque (Quetzaltenango), Chichicastenango (El Quiche) andy Jocotenango (Sacatepéquez)
    • Rivalry between two entities emerged
      • Subsequent intermittent conflicts and redundant use of resources
    • Arguments made for and against rivalry
      • Competition reduces response times
      • Two leaderships increases effort needed to gain cooperation in both training and operations
    • The fire departments originally used modified pickup trucks to transport firefighting equipment and eventually used them for patient transport as well
  • 1970 – First ambulance employed
    • Today many ambulances are still used vehicles, brought in through foreign donation
    • Modified pickup remains predominant transport vehicle to/from incidents
  • Private services began in the 1990s, including Alerta Medica (1992) and Paramedic (2002)
    • Services were dedicated largely to prehospital interventions and transcribers to subscribers only for an annual fee
    • Operating primarily in Guatemala City
    • Often have a doctor on-board the ambulance
    • Uniformly more advanced equipment than public Fire Departments
    • Serve less than 5% of population
GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT

Ministry of Health

  • Gov’t division ultimately responsible for provision of prehospital care
    • In past role has been limited by severe budgetary constraints
  • 1999 – created staff position directly responsible for emergency care development and disaster planning
    • Has taken increasingly active role in level of emergency care development, including:
    • Pre-/In-hospital Care
    • Disaster Preparedness
  • 2000 – sponsored first governmental workshop to educate Guatemala City Public ED staff in basics of trauma and critical care medical mgmt.
  • 2002 – Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres (CONRED – National Coordinator For Disaster Mitigation) created Comite de Asesonía Tecnico para Rescate y Emergencia Prehospitalaria (CATREP)
  • Until recently, prehospital care was provided solely by Fire Department
    • Lacked formal medical education and had only basic equipment
    • Medical responses to frequent natural and man-made disasters best characterized by lack of preparedness and coordination
  • In past decade, awareness of importance of EMS has increased dramatically
    • Aggressive efforts focused on development of prehospital care in general and disaster preparedness in particular.
    • Significant improvements already made in:
      • Training
      • Equipment
      • Standardization
      • Inter-regional Coordination
    • Recent gov’t initiatives hold promise of nationwide positive impact on emergency care delivery to population
  • Future Challenges
    • Severe resource limitations
    • Continued improvements in quality care and access
      • Expansion of prehospital care training/certification (esp. rural)
    • Establishment of dedicated degree program in EMS training within local medical school
    • Reorganization of FD into three separate divisions of specialty:
        • Paramedic
        • Extrication
        • Firefighting
    • Obtain further funding to facilitate modernization of training/equipment
      • Increased collaboration between two existing FDs
      • Creation of centralized emergency dispatch system
REFERENCES
  • Asociación Nacional de Bomberos Municipales Departmentales (ASONBMD) website: http://www.asonbomd.org/quines-somos/historia
  • Benemérito Cuerpo Voluntario de Bomberos website: http://bomberosvoluntariosdeguatemala.com/
  • Bose SK et al: “Willingness to pay for emergency referral transport in a developing setting: a geographically randomized study.” Acad Emerg Med. 2012 Jul;19(7):793-800
  • Hess A, Thomas T, Contreras R, Green GB: “Development of Emergency Medical Services in Guatemala.” Prehosp Emerg Care 2004;8:308-12.
  • Kapoor R et al: “Initiating a Standardized Regional Referral and Counter-Referral System in Guatemala: A Mixed-Methods Study.” Global Ped Health 2017;4:1–14
LINKS

SCOREBOARD

% of Seriously Injured Transported by Ambulance in Guatemala, 2013

>75%

[Source: 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO]

Road Traffic Injury Deaths
(per 100,000 population)

  • Guatemala
  • Russia
  • United States

[Source: 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO]

Reported Homicides
(per 100,000 population)

  • Guatemala
  • Russia
  • United States

[Source: 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, WHO-UNDP]

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