A first responder is a person with specialized training who is among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, natural disaster, or terrorism. First responders typically include law enforcement officers, state troopers, deputies, federal agents, school resource officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, rescuers, military personnel, sanitation workers, public works, and other trained members of organizations connected with this type of work. In some areas, emergency department personnel are also required to respond to disasters and critical situations, designating them first responders.
A certified first responder is one who has received certification to provide pre-hospital care in a certain jurisdiction, such as the Certified First Responder in France. A community first responder is a person dispatched to attend medical emergencies until an ambulance arrives. A wilderness first responder is trained to provide pre-hospital care in remote settings who has skills relevant to ad hoc patient packaging and transport by non-motorized means.
First responders must be trained to deal with a wide array of potential medical emergencies. Due to the high level of stress and uncertainty associated with the position, first responders must maintain physical and mental health. Even with such preparation, first responders face unique risks of being the first people to aid those with unknown contagions. For example, in 2003 first responders were among the earliest victims of the previously unknown SARS virus, when they cared for patients affected with the virus.
Some jurisdictions have special laws defining and establishing the rights and duties of first responders.
The term first responder is defined in U.S. Homeland Security Presidential Directive, HSPD-8 and reads:
The term "first responder" refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers as defined in section 2 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. § 101), as well as emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations.
(6) The term “emergency response providers” includes Federal, State, and local governmental and nongovernmental emergency public safety, fire, law enforcement, public safety telecommunicators/dispatcher, emergency response, emergency medical services providers (including hospital emergency facilities), and related personnel, agencies, and authorities.
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- Gina Hagler, Careers as a First Responder (2012), p. 59.
- Gregory R. Ciottone, Disaster Medicine (2006), p. 141.
- "HSPD-8, Homeland Security Presidential Directive" (PDF). Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. Retrieved 2016-12-11.