While we should be thanking our firefighters, paramedics and EMTs every day, October 28 is National First Responders Day, which offers a unique opportunity to show our appreciation. These heroic men and women are the first ones on the scene of natural disasters, tragedies and accidents. They devote their lives to making the world a better — and safer — place.

The creation of National First Responders Day

The day of recognition is a relatively new holiday, but it was a long time coming. Congress made October 28 National First Responders Day in 2017, though the first bipartisan resolution passed through the senate in 2019.

At the time, there were about “4.6 million career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and paramedic workers serving communities all across the United States,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. Even before the creation of National First Responders Day, Americans knew how valuable and necessary they were.

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

First responders in 2020 and 2021

Only a few months after the first holiday, the COVID-19 pandemic would sweep the globe. First responders were the ones who stepped forward when no one else could. It is more important than ever to show support for these front-line workers, over a year into one of the greatest crises of the last decade.

According to The Associated Press, many first responders have lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. Often first on the scene, EMTs and paramedics are exposed to unique situations that increase their likelihood of contraction.

Even outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters caused destruction across the U.S., requiring firefighters and other first responders to show up in unprecedented force. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 90% of the land in the Western U.S. is experiencing “moderate to severe drought.”

This has led to a staggering increase in wild fires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that 12.6 million acres of land were burned in 2020 and 2021. Firefighters from around the nation risked their lives and left their families to protect the environment and American citizens.

Beyond the pervasive fires, the U.S. has faced an increase in floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s data shows that there have been 18 weather disasters in 2021, as of October 8.

Recognizing first responders

When National First Responders day was announced, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) explained the reason for the new day of recognition.

“Our first responders save countless lives every day, and many tragically pay the ultimate price in the line of duty — a sacrifice we should never forget. Designating a day to honor their service and sacrifice is the least we can do to express our gratitude,” he said in a June 7, 2019 press release.

The 116th congress wrote in the act that “During times of national crisis, first responders have consistently been a source of aid, hope, and comfort for all Americans.”

Show your support for America’s brave first responders by thanking them for their service or donating to a first responder charity. Here are a few to choose from:

National First Responders Day is your opportunity to show gratitude and to recognize the professionals who play an important role in ensuring the safety of every American citizen.