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Table of Contents

  1. What Is a First Responder?
  2. First Responder Careers
  3. Steps to Becoming a First Responder
  4. Get First Responder Certified With Hazmat School

Do you work well under pressure? Do you want to help people in times of crisis? If so, you should consider becoming a first responder, someone who makes unsafe situations safer and delivers emergency medical care to those in need.

What Is a First Responder?

The term “first responder” is often used to describe any sort of emergency personnel. Technically, first responders are the medically trained professionals who rush to the scene of an emergency to address the situation and provide emergency medical care to those affected — this emergency could be a house fire, a chemical spill, a car accident, a heart attack or some other type of hazardous event that necessitates swift medical intervention.

First Responder Careers

There are many types of first responders, including EMRs, EMTs, police and firefighters. These are all great career options for someone who wants to help others and save lives.

1. EMR

EMR stands for emergency medical responder. Certified EMRs may also be referred to simply as first responders. EMR training is essentially first responder training for civilians who are not pursuing a medical career. While an EMR certification is more limited than an EMT, it is still enough to prepare you to administer first aid and CPR and to take some vital first steps toward getting a person stable and possibly moving them to a safer location.

2. EMT

Many don’t know the difference between first responders and EMTs because EMTs are often referred to as first responders. They are a type of first responder — and a very important type. EMT stands for emergency medical technician. EMTs are clinicians with enough medical training to respond quickly to injuries or other medical issues that demand immediate care, even before the patient makes it to the hospital.

An EMT is the most common type of provider in the Emergency Medical Services system, which is a complex network of public and private organizations that work together to address medical needs in the event of an emergency. A paramedic is a more advanced type of clinician who is trained to perform the same life-saving measures an EMT does, plus more. In between an EMT-basic and a paramedic is another level of training called EMT-Intermediate.

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3. Police Officer

Police officers also take on the role of first responders in many cases. Because police officers patrol their communities, a 911 call that comes in requesting an ambulance or medical help may lead to a nearby officer getting to the scene before an ambulance or other emergency personnel.

Police officers do not all undergo emergency medical training, but they may be able to do basic life-saving measures like CPR or first aid. They can also take the necessary measures to make a scene safer by blocking off areas or detaining criminal suspects. Getting certified as a first responder is a smart move for police officers, even if it isn’t required.

4. Firefighter

Firefighters are also a type of first responder. In addition to fires, firefighters are called in for other types of emergencies, including natural disasters and hazardous waste spills. While firefighters have the unique training to contain and put out fires and address other emergencies, part of their training is also focused on emergency medical care.

Many fire departments require their firefighters to be certified EMTs, so they are trained to provide medical care to sick or injured people in the interim before they are taken to a hospital. For example, they may administer oxygen to someone who has inhaled smoke from a fire.

Steps to Becoming a First Responder

So, how do you become a first responder? The answer largely depends on what type of first responder career you’re interested in, but in every case, it involves undergoing some first responder training and getting certified. The general steps to becoming a first responder are:

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Becoming a first responder doesn’t require you to get a bachelor’s degree, but it does require you to have a high school diploma. If you didn’t complete high school, you can take classes to help you pass the General Educational Development (GED) test, which is the educational equivalent of earning a high school diploma.

Step 2: Undergo the Necessary Training

Becoming a first responder requires some specialized training. The training program or courses you’ll need to take depend on what type of first responder you want to be:

  • EMR: To become an EMR, you must take a state-approved First Responder/EMR course.
  • EMT: If you want to be an EMT, you’ll have to complete a state-approved EMT certificate program, which may be offered through local colleges. Most programs require you to have already completed CPR training before starting.
  • Police: If you want to be a police officer, you’ll need to attend police academy, which can result in an associate’s degree. Police offers aren’t required to undergo EMT training, but if you want to provide valuable medical care as a first responder and be certified, it’s a good idea.
  • Firefighter: The training needed to become a firefighter varies, depending on the state you live in, your firehouse and your desired career path. Some programs require you to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. If you want to have a full-time career as a firefighter, you’ll also need to attend Fire Academy training. If your fire department requires firefighters to be certified as EMTs, you’ll have to complete that program, as well.
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Step 3: Take the Necessary Tests

Sitting through first responder training isn’t enough on its own. You have to prove you’re ready to take on the challenges of being a first responder. This also looks different depending on your career path:

  • EMR: After taking your EMR course, you must take the National Registry Emergency Medical Responder cognitive exam, which tests your knowledge, and a state-approved psychomotor exam, which tests your skills.
  • EMT: EMT hopefuls must pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians cognitive exam and a state-approved psychomotor exam. These exams help ensure you’re ready to deliver emergency medical care.
  • Police: Different police departments have their own requirements, but typically, you’ll have to undergo several tests to ensure you have the physical and mental abilities you need for such a demanding job. You’ll also have to pass an oral board. For EMT certification, you’ll also need to pass those tests.
  • Firefighter: Because firefighting is so physically demanding, you’ll have to pass a physical abilities test. You’ll also have to take a written exam to prove your knowledge. If your department requires you to be an EMT or you’ve chosen to be, you’ll need to take the necessary tests.

Step 4: Get Your First Responder Certification

If you’ve taken and passed the tests to become either a certified EMR or EMT first responder, you can apply for your certification at the national level. Then, you can obtain a state license. Remember that you must also be CPR-certified.

Step 5: Expand Your Knowledge

As you begin your career, you will likely run into all sorts of demanding situations where you may wish you had more knowledge to help you take the appropriate measures — this is where it’s helpful to seek out additional training or simply research on your own to learn more. You may want to find out how to become a paramedic and take the necessary courses to can take additional first responder courses to advance to this higher level of EMS certification.

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If you want to be prepared to address hazardous materials accidents, OSHA standard 29 CRF Part 1910.120 dictates that first responders to an emergency scene involving hazardous substances must have the right training to maintain their own safety and help address the situation. Even if you are not an EMT, police officer or firefighter, if you work at a waste site with hazardous substances, you need this emergency response training.

Get First Responder Certified With Hazmat School

At Hazmat School, we offer online training courses to fulfill OSHA’s requirements for first responders to incidents involving hazardous waste. We also many other courses to help prepare workers to deal with hazardous materials safely. If you want to be prepared to protect workers and the public in the event of a hazmat catastrophe, make sure you’re certified as a first responder for these situations. Enroll today!

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