Wherever you live, disasters can happen. Fires, earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, and landslides are all able to destroy property and take lives. Then, there are man-made disasters, which can range from building collapses due to improper design to terrorist acts.
Fortunately, first responders run toward danger, ready to help those in need. From EMTs caring for the sick and injured to firefighters braving burning buildings, all first responders are essential.
Unfortunately, disasters stretch already stressed teams of first responders thin. However, you can provide them with some much-needed slack. What can you do to help? Who can you reach out to?
Volunteer as a Firefighter or EMT
You may be able to become a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical technician (EMT). These are two of the most immediately needed first responders since they must deal with active crises.
Though stipulations for volunteering vary among departments, counties, and states, generally, volunteer firefighters must:
- Have a high school diploma or general education development (GED) diploma
- Be 18 years or older
- Pass a background check
- Have a driver’s license that’s current and valid
Start by contacting your local fire departments to see if they take volunteers. If they do, and you meet the requirements, you’ll have to fill out an application, pass a screening process, and undergo training to gain the skills necessary for putting out fires.
Volunteer EMTs must:
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Be 18 years or older
- Have accurate color vision and acceptable visual clarity with or without aids.
- Be mentally stable
Becoming a volunteer EMT is a more involved process than becoming a volunteer firefighter. Search for openings at nearby emergency medical service (EMS) agencies. You’ll have to:
- Complete EMT training
- Become certified in CPR
- Pass a psychomotor exam
- Pass a cognitive exam from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians
Once you’ve gone through these steps, you can apply for positions.
Volunteer with Disaster Response Agencies
You may prefer to be involved in the rebuilding and cleanup process. Organizations like the Red Cross provide disaster relief to affected families, as do governmental agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
These organizations provide food, shelter, supplies, and attentive ears to listen to the victims.
The first step is to get training in the area you want to volunteer for. FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team provides training certification resources and connections to response groups.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster offers volunteer opportunities that unite like-minded individuals to respond more effectively to crises.
One of the most effective ways to make a difference in a disaster is to help prepare yourself and others before the disaster ever strikes. For example, teachers can ensure their students are ready with the latest preparedness techniques thanks to a FEMA-approved curriculum.
You should also familiarize yourself with FEMA’s 5 Simple Steps That May Save a Life, which is essential in helping others after a disaster but before emergency responders can arrive. These steps include:
- Call 911
- Stay safe and assess the situation to see if you can help
- Stop the bleeding with firm pressure until responders can help
- Position the injured on their side
- Provide comfort and ask questions
As FEMA puts it, “You are the help until help arrives.”
You don’t have to be hands-on with crews in a disaster to make a difference. For instance, you can provide food and water for first responders and victims. You can donate blood as well.
In fact, giving blood regularly is what truly makes the difference, rather than just giving once a disaster has already happened. If you’re tech-savvy, you can offer to assist with a local department’s social media or website duties.
Additionally, one bit of assistance you can provide is beneficial—donating money. Disaster relief organizations and emergency response agencies always need more cash to operate.
Thanking first responders is more than kind; keeping their spirits up is necessary. Many retail stores and restaurants provide first responder discounts, but you can take it further.
Sponsored events, such as SERVPRO’s First Responder Bowl, celebrate the sacrifices made by the men and women who act with heroism as a matter of daily duty.
In summary, supporting first responders is crucial, and there are multiple ways to contribute, from volunteering as EMTs or firefighters to aiding disaster relief organizations.
Educating oneself and the community on preparedness and offering practical support can significantly bolster the efforts of these vital personnel, ultimately enhancing community resilience and safety in times of crisis.