Background Primary care medical staffs’ knowledge, attitude and behavior about health emergency and the response capacity are directly related to the control and prevention of public health emergencies. Therefore, it is of great significance for improving primary care to gain in-depth knowledge about knowledge, attitude and behavior and the response capacity of primary care medical staffs. The main objective of this study is to explore knowledge, attitude and behavior, and the response capacity of primary care medical staffs of Guangdong Province, China. Methods Stratified clustered sample method was used in the anonymous questionnaire investigation about knowledge, attitude and behavior, and the response capacity of 3410 primary care medical staffs in 15 cities of Guangdong Province, China from July, 2010 to October 2010. The emergency response capacity was evaluated by 33 questions. The highest score of the response capacity was 100 points (full score), score of 70 was a standard. Results 62.4% primary care medical staffs believed that public health emergencies would happen. Influenza (3.86 ± 0.88), food poisoning (3.35 ± 0.75), and environmental pollution events (3.23 ± 0.80) (the total score was 5) were considered most likely to occur. Among the 7 public health emergency skills, the highest self-assessment score is “public health emergency prevention skills” (2.90 ± 0.68), the lowest is “public health emergency risk management (the total score was 5)” (1.81 ± 0.40). Attitude evaluation showed 66.1% of the medical staffs believed that the community awareness of risk management were ordinary. Evaluation of response capacity of health emergency showed that the score of primary care medical staffs was 67.23 ± 10.61, and the response capacity of senior physicians, public health physicians and physicians with relatively long-term practice were significantly better (P <0.05). Multiple linear stepwise regression analysis showed gender, title, position, type of work, work experience and whether to participate relative training were the main factors affecting the health emergency response capacity. Conclusions The knowledge, attitude and behavior about public health emergencies and the response capacity of primary care medical staffs of Guangdong Province (China) were poor. Health administrative departments should strengthen the training of health emergency knowledge and skills of the primary care medical staffs to enhance their health emergency response capabilities.