First responders are the heroes upon whom many Americans rely for their safety, whether that be police, EMT, fire, or anyone else. Unfortunately, EMTs remain under significant pressure in their personal and professional lives – as Fortune explores, EMTs are still experiencing sickness, lack of pay, and even death at a rate that’s disproportionate to the risk of the job. With the machinery of bureaucracy often moving slowly, it falls to wider society to help give that support these professionals sorely need – and there are plenty of ways that modern society can provide real and meaningful support.
The work that first responders complete can be extremely draining and traumatic. It follows that these men and women should have access to, at very least, financial security and shelter. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. As NPR outlines, many first responders – especially those in healthcare – are burdened with huge debts that have left them unable to obtain proper housing, often paying extortionate fees for inflated rent. There are options available, such as home loans for medical professionals, and greater public awareness and support will help to promote them further. This is, arguably, the most important step in providing support for first responder heroes – and the most important.
First responders are also underequipped when it comes to the job itself. A report by USA Today found that first responders routinely lack the equipment they need to do a good job; this occurred more frequently in relation to healthcare and fire workers, but even police weren’t equipped properly depending on the area of service. There are public funds to help with this that can be contributed to; charitable organizations, for instance, and advocates, can provide funds. However, more can be done through petitioning lawmakers, both locally and nationally, to encourage them into making long-term changes to protect first responders and enable them to protect the general public.
Mental care framework
The trauma that first responders experience is, arguably, understated in public discourse. Conditions such as PTSD are often associated with war and active combat, but first responders will often undergo similar experiences that can leave them with similar mental health conditions to those experienced by soldiers. This, in turn, creates a healthcare burden that is not well met. Indeed, research has shown that the effects of work on first responders are only now being researched. A more robust framework is needed to see those first responders receive the lifelong care they need, and the public can help here, too. Many of the ways in which mental health can be improved are community and society-based – support networks, places to talk, and a general understanding.
First responders deserve respect, support, and the love of their communities. For many, this hasn’t been provided over the past few years. Addressing the root causes of these problems and giving new reasons for first responders to enjoy their jobs and the role they have to play is essential.