First responders are heroes in our neighborhood. From fighting fires, attending wounded civilians, all the way to arresting perpetrators to keep the community safe. Without them, our communities would be extremely dangerous, and many lives will be affected.
Considering a career as a first responder, there are many choices and obstacles they have to face on a day-to-day basis. These range from sacrificing time with family, all the way to sacrificing their life. They witness death, horrific injuries, and families breaking down from the aftermath.
It must take a lot to be a first responder. With the proper training, attitude, and understanding of what you are getting into with the job path you select, YOU could be a first responder.
What Makes Someone A First Responder
The Proper TrainingEagerness to Learn.
Health Is A Priority
A Heart of Gold
Prepared to Stare Death in The Face
Sacrificing Time with Loved Ones Ready to Face Whatever Is Ahead of Them
The Proper Training
Without training, no one would get far in the career path of a first responder. First responders go through strenuous training, some of this also simulates the situations they may face in real life. This is to ensure they know what to do if that situation were to happen on a call.
The physical training they go through is continuous, if you are not in shape, you will be after months of strenuous exercise. Our first responders are required to be in shape because they need to be able to rush and do everything possible to do their job. You would not want someone who cannot run into a building that is burning to save you, would you?
You need to complete several physical tests to qualify for any department in a fire station or a police station. These physical tests go along with your knowledge test, both go hand in hand to ensure you are applicable for the job.
Some Parts of Physical Tests First Responders Are Required to Complete.
● Ladder raises.
● Hose drags.
● Equipment carries/hoist.
● Dummy drag.
● Sledgehammer sled
● Gear drills
● Trigger Pull
● Arm Ergo-Meter
● Sit/Reach Extensions
These tests ensure those who apply can perform the job that is needed. Even if you already have the job, you should still touch upon these exercises to stay in shape. You do not want to risk your life and others just because you did not stay in top-notch shape.
It is also beneficial you exercise at the fire station or at the police department you are at when you are on the clock. Then you can go home and relax because you already got your exercise in.
Some first responders use protein shakes, powder, and even some energy drinks to have the energy to work out. This is not healthy, but sometimes it can help with an energy boost. Look at the Health Is A Priority section to see why these are a bad choice.
Eagerness to Learn.
You cannot stick with old practices. At this time, we have more advanced problems, so we need more advanced solutions. All first responders are eager to learn, whether it is touching upon a subject you have already known about, or even brand-new knowledge, you will see they are not objecting to relearn.
While it may be mostly touching up on old techniques, there is also some useful information out there that can benefit you. This training is not available while you are on the clock however, it may also come out of your pocket.
Think of college students. The more you learn and earn degrees and certificates, the higher your pay, job rank, and faster you can climb the career ladder. Yes, you may have to pay a pretty penny to gain the knowledge, but it is worth it.
What Degrees Would Benefit Me for The Job?
Well, that is a good question to ask. It all depends on what career field you want to go in. Do you want to be a firefighter, police officer, or EMT? Would it help to see what degrees you would need to help your decision?
Take a look at some degrees below to make that decision for yourself.
Fire Science- This degree is recommended future Firefighters strive for. You know how to put the fires out, but why not learn more about how and why they happen? You can also learn new information on how to prevent them from happening.
Social Sciences (Psychology, Criminology, Sociology)- This degree is for future Police Officers. Do you know why criminals do what they do? Have you ever wondered what goes on in their heads and what their daily lives look like that forces them to commit crimes?
This degree dives further into the mind of a criminal. You learn more about how and why someone’s home life, social life, and the idea behind committing crimes can make someone into a criminal.
Emergency Care Training- This degree is for those who want to become Paramedics instead of staying at the EMT level. In this degree, you learn more than the average EMT does, and you can advance your career in the meantime!
All of these degrees will further your education on the job you select and will also let you receive a raise and a promotion down the line!
Health Is A Priority
While physical fitness is a must, you also need to worry about your health. If you were to get sick constantly and happen to give whatever illness to your colleagues and patients, you could be in huge trouble.
All first responders have to feel well to go to work. No matter what career you choose, you need to stay healthy. Follow common sense, if you are sick and could spread what you have to others, take a day off.
However, you could not know you have an illness. Sometimes we do not know we are sick, until a few days later. In this case, assess yourself to see if you should go to work. It is better to stay home and miss a day of work, rather than risk other’s safety and health.
Not only do you need to watch for illness, but you must also be healthy to perform your job. This means you need a decent amount of sleep, proper nutrition, plenty of water, and even watch your mental health.
When you think of a decent amount of sleep, what pops into your mind? Is it 6 hours? 8? More? If you answer yes to these questions, then that should be at least how much sleep you get daily. Between 6 and 10 hours, your body is energized enough to get you through the day into the night.
Now the trouble first responders have is they may not be able to sleep for a long time while on the job. They need to be on the scene as soon as possible, so they need to be awake and be able to put on their gear ASAP.
On their days off, they relax and enjoy spending time with loved ones. They also can catch up on sleep. As long as you do not sacrifice your sleep when you are off the clock, you should be fine.
On that note, some people rely on energy drinks and power drinks/power to boost their workouts, feel more energized, and so much more. This is unhealthy if done moderately. Energy drinks like Monster and Bang are filled with so much caffeine, they state on the nutrition label that the whole can is 2 servings.
Eating and drinking right are especially important, but so is mental health. You will see some scarring things on the job. That is no doubt. From firefighters pulling burning bodies of animals and people, police watching someone be shot to death, and EMTs watching their patient die in the ambulance. All of this is scarring. So, to keep yourself sane, acknowledge the situation, and think how you saved lives before, think of your family, do anything to stay sane.
This career is a rough one, so you need to stay in top-notch shape.
Not only is it important for first responders to take care of their physical health they must take care of their mental health. A first responders’ job is stressful and they can see a lot of traumatic situations which can have lasting effects on the first responder’s mental health.
Many first responders will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This is due to the nature of their job. First responders see traumatic scenes and deal with traumatic calls frequently. This takes a toll on their mental health.
Unfortunately, some first responders have a hard time finding healthy coping methods for their mental health. This can lead to substance abuse problems, mental illness, and an increased risk for suicide.
First responders are at a higher risk for suicide or suicide attempts than most other professions. Studies have found that EMTs are 1.39 times more likely to commit suicide than the public. The stigma around mental health can make it hard for first responders to talk about their problems. Sometimes first responders worry that if they talk about the mental health struggles they are having then they may lose their job or seem”unfit” for the job.
If you or anyone you know need help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255 or visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
A Heart of Gold
Would you want someone who hates their job, hates people, and does not care about saving others to help you in your crisis? Did not think so. First responders care about the public, that’s part of their job and their personalities.
When a crisis happens, first responders are always on the scene. They want to help, are heartbroken when they could not save others, and keep their rescues and the public calm in times of an emergency.
When that firefighter is pulling someone’s brother out of a burning building, the police officer takes away the shooter that has been threatening the neighborhood, and the EMT personnel are whisking the old woman that fell, they are not doing it for the money, they care about others and want to save them.
Ask any First responder if they love their job. Every single one of them will tell you yes and that they would do it all over again, no matter the situation.
Prepared to Stare Death in The Face
The fourth thing that someone wanting to become a first responder must know is that they will be put into dangerous situations often. Whether it is going into burning buildings, dealing with dangerous criminals, or being exposed to dangerous viruses, all first responders have a dangerous job.
Proper training and gaining experience can help in these situations. That is why it is important to always be learning and training. First responders have continuous training that they must go through so they can always be prepared for dangerous and potentially deadly situations.
Sacrificing Time with Loved Ones
The fifth thing that someone wanting to become a first responder must know is how much they must sacrifice with their loved ones. First responders must sacrifice a lot of time with their loved ones which can take a toll on their relationships. First responders must work 364 days a year. This means that many times they are working on holidays, weekends, and other special events. First responders must also work long shifts. Some first responders even work 24 to 72 hour long shifts at one time.
These long and odd hours can, unfortunately, put a strain on their relationships. First responders have a high divorce rate. The reason why the first responder’s divorce rate is high has many contributing factors which include:
- Long and odd work hours
- Frequently faced with danger
- Increased mental illness
- Substance abuse
Ready to Face Whatever Is Ahead of Them
First responders have a unique job. It is not like an office job where you have a general idea of what will need to be done every day. Every day on the job for first responders is different. Some days may be busier than others. Some days there may be not-so-serious calls and other days there may be multiple life-threatening calls.
First responders must be flexible and able to easily adapt to various emergencies. First responders need to be able to think quickly and act fast. If a building is on fire firefighters must act fast and communicate with the team to put the fire out fast and get everyone out. They do not have much time to think since time is so critical in these situations.
First responders also work in a variety of climates and vehicles. Some of the unique vehicles first responders use include:
Depending on where you work, you may have to go out in snowstorms, hurricanes, or other dangerous weather when no one should be out. First responders still must go out to help people during these emergencies so therefore they are at risk of danger when it comes to these situations.
More tips HERE!
Can Anyone Become a First Responder?
There are three minimum steps that first responders must complete before they can obtain their certifications. The three steps that first responders must complete include:
- Must-Have a High School Diploma or GED
- Specialized Training
- Must Complete Testing
Step One: Must Have a High School Diploma or GED
It is required that all first responders must have at least a high school diploma or have completed their GED. Some first responders are required to have a minimum of an associate degree depending on which route of the first responder they want to become. As discussed previously a college degree may be beneficial and may help the first responder’s application stand out when they are applying for jobs.
Step Two: Specialized Training
There are four options to become a first responder. These options for first responders include:
- Emergency Medical Responder (EMR)
EMR training is based on specific state requirements. To become an EMR a first responder must complete a state-based EMR course.
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
The EMT program varies between states similar to the EMR training. EMTs must complete the specific state requirements. EMT training can be done at various locations from some fire stations or local colleges. EMT training typically takes a few months to a year to complete. Typically EMTs must complete CPR training before starting their training. EMTs may also decide to further their education and training and become paramedics. This typically requires an associate’s degree.
- Police Officer
Police officers must complete their training through the police academy. In some cases, police officers are required to have a minimum of an associate’s degree.
Firefighter’s training and certifications vary on both the state they are working in and the type of career path they choose. Some require firefighters to have an associate degree and some even require bachelor’s degrees to become a firefighter. For many full-time firefighters, they must attend fire academy training. Some fire departments require all of their firefighters to have their EMT certifications as well.
Each of these four options has its own set of specialized training to be able to complete
its specific job. First responders must have the proper training and education they need to complete their job. First responders have such a vital role in keeping us safe.
Step Three: Testing
Once training is completed and passed then the first responder can take their certification exams. EMRs, EMTs, police officers, and firefighters all have certification exams.
All EMRs must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Responder exam. This test is
broken into two parts:
1. Cognitive Exam – which test the knowledge on the course work
2. State-Approved Psychomotor Exam – this test requires the EMR to demonstrate skills.
EMTs have a two-part exam as well. They are required to take a state-approved cognitive exam as well as a skills exam.
- Police Officer
Police officer’s exams do differ based on the requirements for that specific police department. Generally, police officers are required to pass several exams testing the police officers’ physical and mental abilities. Police officers are required to take an oral board in addition to the other exams.
Similar to police officers, firefighter exams differ a little between the fire department they choose. If the firefighter goes through a fire academy program then many times exams are done before graduating from the fire academy. Most firefighters must complete a written exam and a physical agility exam at a minimum.
Disqualifications for Becoming a First Responders
Some things can disqualify someone from becoming a first responder. These disqualifications are ultimately determined by the state in which someone wants to become a first responder. Disqualifications for almost every state and every first responder certification include criminal charges for murder, attempted murder, and sexual abuse or assault charges.
Disqualifications for EMRs
Disqualifications for EMRs vary based on the state. Disqualifications for EMRs are based primarily on serious criminal charges.
Disqualifications for EMTs
The NREMT has its policies and board of directors to decide if someone is disqualified from becoming an EMT. The board investigates criminal convictions and charges and can deny someone the opportunity to become an EMT. Charges that the NREMT investigate includes both felonies and misdemeanors for:
- Dangerous weapon charges
- Physical Assault
- Abuse of children or elderly
- Domestic violence
- Theft, robbery, or burglary
- Sexual abuse or sexual assault
The NREMT board will look at and investigate the severity of the crime, the amount of time passed since the conviction, and if the nature of the crimes would affect the EMT’s ability to perform their duties.
Disqualifications for Firefighters
Firefighters are required to complete drug and background checks based on the fire department that they work for. The fire department investigates and determines if someone is disqualified from being a firefighter. Some factors frequently disqualify someone from being a firefighter. Disqualifications for firefighters include:
- Unable to pass a physical fitness exam
- Failing a drug test
- Extensive criminal history
- Extensive driving record (including DUI)
Disqualifications for Police Officers
Police officers have the most disqualifications out of the four types of first responders. Disqualifications for police officers include:
- Any felony convictions
- Serious misdemeanors
- Current drug use (determined by failing a drug test)
- Past drug abuse or drug charges (determined from interviews and
- Dishonorable discharge from the military
- Bad credit history
- Bad driving record (including DUI or an extensive amount of tickets)
- Domestic violence charges
- Any past or current gang affiliations
- Poor employment history
- Unable to pass a physical fitness test
First responders are essential in keeping us safe. They have an important job and must face danger frequently while on the job. There are four ways to become a first responder and each has its unique training, certification, and qualifications that are required.
Whether someone chooses to be an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), police officer, or firefighter they all must work together and communicate well to help during emergencies. It is not easy to be a first responder and the first responder must take care of their physical and mental health so that they can complete the job in the best way possible.
How much does an EMT make on average?
An EMT makes a salary of $36,650 a year. This is an okay salary, but over time they make more as they have more experience and earn praises. This job does pay less than the other first responder fields, but most EMTs say they do this to help people, not mostly for the money.
How dangerous is it to be a firefighter?
There is always a risk with any first responder they could not make it home to their loved ones. With this being said, firefighters are trained well and always have the help of their crew to stay safe. There is a high chance they could get cancer from the burning building, burned alive, trapped under the structure, and so much more. However, it is not common in most cases.
How do you prove you are a first responder?
There are a couple of ways someone can prove they are a first responder. First responders all are certified or licensed therefore they have some type of badge, license, or certification number. All first responders should carry some type of identification of their certification with them at all times. Another way first responders can prove they are the first responder is by their employer. Typically they are issued some type of badge or work ID and if the first responder does not have any other verification this can work.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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