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Failure to recognise the importance of the dispatch centre in emergency medical services (EMS) limits standards and procedures in prehospital emergency medicine. The dispatch centre should be identified as the point of leadership and management of the entire system. Measures for quality control and quality assurance should be an integral part of EMS administration. Minimum requirements for equipment and personnel depend on EMS structure and on geographic and epidemiological factors. Clearly defined algorithms for decision-making and computer-assisted dispatching can increase efficiency and reduce costs.