Guatemala has recently undergone many advances in emergency medical services (EMS) training and disaster management. Industrialization and demographic changes have led to a continuing decline in the prevalence of infectious disease, while trauma and cardiovascular-related deaths have become increasingly important. Trauma now accounts for the nation's single greatest cause of productive years of life lost, a major indicator of a disease's impact on society. This "demographic transition" has dramatically increased the number of incidents where early prehospital intervention can have a positive impact on morbidity and mortality. However, until recently, prehospital medical care was provided by firefighters, who lacked formal medical training. Responding to a perceived need, increased collaborative efforts between prehospital care providers and governmental and nongovernmental agencies have rapidly improved provider training, initiated care standardization, and improved disaster preparedness. These efforts may serve as a model to other developing nations seeking to improve their EMS systems.