First responders are a critical part of our society. We count on them to be there when anything goes wrong, but in an emergency are police and fire really the first responders? You can argue that the first responder is the person who makes the 911 call, but since the name is already taken we’ll call that person Responder Zero.
Responder Zero has a lot of responsibility. They have to assess the situation, decide if it is safe to remain in the area, get the victims to safety if necessary (and if possible), make the 911 call, gather and provide as much information as possible to the 911 operator, deal with immediate life safety issues, and deal with the emotional condition of the person or persons they are helping, along with their own stress. They may be the only other person on the scene until first responders get there. (The average response time for emergency calls nationwide is 10 to 15 minutes, depending on who you ask.) Responder Zero does all this, quite often, with zero training.
Most people don’t wake up in the morning expecting to report as Responder Zero that day. Responder Zeros are made in an instant by circumstances and conscience. It could be any of us, at any age, at any time, in any place. We could be helping anyone, including someone we love. The emergency could have any cause, in any set of circumstances. Is it possible to be prepared that?
Yes, it is. The first step is relatively easy: understand that it could happen to you. If that makes you feel stress, understand why. What specifically worries you? Do you have trouble thinking clearly under pressure? Are you not comfortable taking charge of a situation? Do you get lightheaded at the sight of blood? Understanding these things is important, mostlybecause they aren’t going to stop you from being Responder Zero. If you’re there when the fire breaks out, or the friend collapses, or the accident happens, you’re it. Understanding how you may feel in an emergency makes it easier. Emergencies are stressful, and your body is going to have a stress reaction. Knowing that is the most important thing you can learn.
The second step is to know how to make a 911 call. Dial the number, stay on the line, answer the questions, do what the operator tells you to do, as far as is possible. Also listen to the person you are helping, if they are talking. Make them as comfortable as possible. Do what you can. If you can’t do it, tell them. Being Responder Zero doesn’t come with a cape and the ability to leap tall buildings.No one is expecting you to be a superhero. That’s the second most important thing you can learn.
You may be surprised what you’re capable of when called upon. What’s better than being surprised, however, is being sure. Take a CPR or first aid class. Take a Community Emergency Response Team training. If you get a chance, participate in a drill or a community exercise. Do what you can to overcome the things that make you uncomfortable about responding to an emergency. Every step you take will make you that much more comfortable when a real emergency happens.
Check out www.do1thing.com for an emergency preparedness program that is easy and inexpensive, or find another emergency preparedness program that works for you.