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Being a first responder is not just a job; it's a calling that requires a unique set of skills and attributes that can mean the difference between life and death. These heroes are the first on the scene of accidents, natural disasters or any other critical incidents where life and safety are at risk. These emergency situations often demand high levels of physical exertion, sometimes over extended periods.

First responders must be able to carry heavy equipment, move debris or even carry individuals to safety. In addition, they must also maintain mental alertness and resiliency while being able to recover quickly. The ability to work long shifts under these conditions is a testament to their dedication and the rigorous training they undergo to serve their communities effectively.

In the blog, we'll be exploring some of the often-overlooked physical demands of the job, from training to the hidden health toll many first responders face.

Preparing To Be a First Responder

Preparation is key in the unpredictable world of first responders. Their training programs are a comprehensive regimen encompassing everything from strength training and cardiovascular conditioning to agility drills — all designed to keep them fit for the rigors of their work.

Simulated emergency scenarios play a crucial role at this stage, offering a realistic yet safe platform to hone their skills, build muscle memory and confidence and foster team coordination. These exercises ensure they're not just physically ready, but mentally prepared to make critical decisions in the heat of the moment.

The Long-Term Health Implications

The physical exertions and emotional strains of first responders are not without consequences. Repetitive motions, exposure to adverse conditions and the sheer physicality of their tasks often lead to musculoskeletal disorders. Meanwhile, exposure to hazardous materials can escalate their risk of chronic diseases.

Beyond the physical labor of their daily responsibilities, first responders often wage a silent battle against the stress and adrenaline that come with their line of work. The fight or flight response, which they may face on a daily basis, can have long-term health impacts, not only leading to physical issues, like hypertension, heart attacks and strokes but also mental health problems.

Not only are first responder jobs high-stress environments with irregular work hours, they also expose workers to potentially traumatic scenes. This can lead to issues like anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, PTSD and other mental health issues. Addressing these needs is essential, not only to help our heroes in return but also to reduce the stigma around seeking help in the first place.

Supporting Our Heroes

Whether they're maintaining resilience on the job or joining the road to recovery, first responders deserve a helping hand. Access to quality healthcare, specialized rehabilitation centers and mental health services is fundamental, ensuring they can recover from injuries and cope with the mental toll of their duties.

Peer support and counseling offer additional layers of support, providing a space to share experiences and coping strategies. Many first responder organizations offer professional counseling services designed to address the specific needs of those in the profession. Similarly, departments and agencies will often provide employee assistance programs (EAPs), which offer confidential assessments, counseling and referrals for a range of issues, including stress, mental health, substance abuse and family problems.

There is also a wide range of first-responder charities and foundations providing essential support to our heroes on the frontlines. Whether you need assistance or you're looking for ways to help, consider checking out these organizations:

As first responders continue to bravely answer their call of duty, it's our collective responsibility to protect and serve those who do the same for us.

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Dogs are more than just pets; they've been loyal companions to humans for tens of thousands of years. In ancient times they helped us hunt, but today, they serve a wide range of roles, from our best friends to vigilant protectors who keep us safe.

Each year, March 13th is dedicated to National K9 Veterans Day — a day for recognizing and honoring the service and sacrifices of military and working dogs. It marks the official birthday of the United States K9 Corps, which was established back in 1942 for the first military dogs who served during World War II.

These dogs, and those that followed, have played critical roles in patrol, detection, search and rescue, and as loyal companions. The observance of National K9 Veterans Day is a testament to the enduring partnership between dogs and humans, particularly in the realm of national defense and public service. It's a day to reflect on the heroism of these animals and give thanks for their countless contributions to our society.

The History of the K9 Unit

The K9 unit, as we know it today, has a storied history that began long before its formal establishment. Dogs have been used in warfare and security since ancient times, aiding the military forces of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. However, the official use of dogs for military purposes in the United States began during World War II with the inception of the War Dog Program, or "K9 Corps," on March 13, 1942.

This marked the beginning of systematic training and deployment of canines for combat and other military-related tasks. The K9 Corps initially recruited civilian dogs and their owners, training these teams for various duties, including sentry, scout, and messenger roles.

Over the years, the role of K9 units has evolved significantly. In the public sphere, police forces have adopted the concept of training dogs for law enforcement tasks such as drug and bomb detection, search and rescue operations, and the pursuit of suspects. Today, these K9 units are an indispensable part of both military operations and public safety efforts, showcasing the remarkable adaptability and skill of these working dogs.

The Life of a Working Dog

Working dogs play a pivotal role in contributing to public and national security. Their keen senses, particularly hearing and smell, make them invaluable in detecting explosives, narcotics, and even certain medical conditions. Our canine companions are also often the first line of defense for national security, working tirelessly at borders, airports, and high-security events to sniff out potential threats.

The life of a K9 unit begins with rigorous training, where handlers hone their natural abilities to perform specialized tasks. This training is both physically and mentally demanding, ensuring that the dogs are prepared for the challenges they will face in the field without getting distracted.

Throughout their service, K9s form an unbreakable bond with their handlers, built on trust, respect, and mutual reliance. When these dogs retire, they often do so with the same handler or another loving family, where they can enjoy a well-deserved rest and the companionship they have earned through years of loyal service. In some cases, after their tenure in active duty, K9s can often find new ways to contribute to society — especially as the roles of working dogs are continually expanding.

As therapy dogs, they provide comfort and support to veterans and civilians alike, helping to alleviate stress, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. As service dogs, they assist individuals with disabilities, offering them greater independence and quality of life. Whatever they get up to, K9 units continue to serve and inspire long after their official duties have ended, proving that their heroism extends far beyond the battlefield or the line of duty.

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February is Black History Month — an important time to recognize and honor the profound contributions and sacrifices of African Americans throughout our nation's history. Despite the immeasurable hardships and discrimination they've faced in a country that had, until around 60 years ago, denied their rights as citizens, African American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have continually shown exceptional valor and resilience both on and off the battlefield.

This year, to celebrate and honor our nation's Black service members, we'd like to take a look back at their heroic journeys throughout history, shedding light on their often unsung stories.

The History of African Americans in the Military

From the very inception of the United States of America, Black service members have demonstrated an unwavering commitment, courage and determination to defend the nation. In fact, they've answered the call of duty to serve and sacrifice in every single U.S. war, from the Revolutionary War through Iraq and Afghanistan.

As we commemorate the enduring legacy of African Americans in the military, let's trace their remarkable history from the 1700s to the modern day.

The Revolutionary War

Beginning prior to the Revolutionary War, both free and enslaved Black people rose up against the British during the Boston Massacre. In fact, Crispus Attucks is considered to be the first casualty of the revolution, bravely leading the protest before the tragedy transpired.

Following the Boston Massacre, over 5,000 Black soldiers from all 13 colonies fought for the American cause, seeking the prospect of freedom from both the British and the colonists. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those who served were freed from their bonds.

The Civil War

While Black minutemen and soldiers served in regiments throughout the later 1700s and early 1800s, it wasn't until 1863 that the U.S. government officially allowed African Americans to enlist in the armed forces. However, the Civil War was obviously a turning point for Black military history, as by the end of it, nearly 200,000 Black soldiers had served in the Union Army. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army had recruited a small group of Black soldiers toward the end of the war, but they wouldn't see combat before its end.

The Great Wars

By the time of World War I and World War II, the horrors of chattel slavery had ended, and Black Americans were quickly becoming a much larger part of the nation's military — despite continuing discrimination and segregation. To put it into perspective, the First World War saw over 380,000 African Americans serve in the army, while over 1 million Black men and women served in the second.

Fighting fascism on one front and racism on the other, Black service members demonstrated extraordinary courage and resilience, with legendary groups like the Tuskegee Airmen leaving an indelible mark on history.

Modern Military Diversity

In today's modern military, the landscape has significantly evolved. The U.S. military is continually committed to improving racial diversity and providing equal opportunities for all service members. And with each branch making a more proactive effort to recruit and train a diverse force of soldiers, sailors and airmen, the nation can not only strengthen its capabilities but also reflect the values of equality and inclusion that are so central to America.

Honoring Black Heroes

As we continue into Black History Month, and throughout the year, it's important to take the time to reflect on and commemorate the sacrifices and contributions African Americans have made in the line of duty. Their stories of bravery and determination inspire us all and remind us of the strength found in diversity and unity.

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Behind every first responder is a family standing tall to support them. Though first responder families are often overshadowed by the flashing lights and sirens, they live lives of quiet bravery and resilience. From coping with constant worry over their loved one’s safety to managing the unpredictable nature of emergency work and its impact on the home, these families face their own set of challenges.

Today, we’d like to shine a spotlight on the experiences of first-responder families and share a few resources that can offer some much-needed support.

The Challenges of Being a First Responder Family

First, it’s important to understand the unique difficulties many family members face, including:

  1. Emotional Stress and Anxiety: Families of first responders often must grapple with ongoing worry and anxiety over their loved ones due to their occupational exposure to danger. Much like first responders have to deal with the unpredictability of emergency work, their family members are also unsure of what each day may bring.
  2. Long, Irregular Work Hours: The atypical and often extended working hours of first responders can also put a strain on first responders and their families. Long shifts that stretch into the nights can hinder family bonding time and disrupt routines and schedules. This often puts more responsibilities on spouses to manage the household alone.
  3. Limited Availability for Family: In addition to irregular and long working hours, the demanding nature of a first responder’s job means they often have to miss significant family events, such as birthdays, school functions, anniversaries and holidays. Their absence during these moments can lead to feelings of disappointment or even abandonment, especially for children.
  4. Physical Risk and Health Concerns: The inherent danger of being a first responder can bring constant worry about physical harm. Families often live with the fear of potential injury or worse, impacting their mental well-being, and exposure to hazardous and traumatic conditions can have long-term impacts on their loved ones.
  5. Financial Strain: Despite the essential nature of their work, many first responders and their families face financial stress, whether it’s from the rising cost of living or health care expenses in the case of injury or trauma. In the tragic event that a first responder passes in the line of duty, their family could be facing even greater financial distress on top of dealing with the grief. Fortunately, a wide array of support resources are available to first-responder families.

Helpful Resources for Supporting First Responders and Their Families

Here are a few resources to help first responders and their family members:

  • First Responders Support Network offers specialized retreats and mental health support for first responders and their families, focusing on recovery from traumatic stress and promoting well-being through peer support and education.
  • Hope for Emergency Responders Organization (HERO) is dedicated to providing support and resources and fostering a community of care and recognition for the mental and physical health of first responders and their families.
  • First Responders Children’s Foundation provides financial assistance and educational resources to children who have lost a parent in the line of duty and families facing hardship due to a first responder’s work-related trauma.
  • Family Survivor College Scholarship was established by AFBA to support the educational aspirations of the children of fallen first responders.
  • Financial and Legal Assistance offered by AFBA through various programs and organizations provides financial guidance and legal support to first-responder families, helping them navigate the complexities of financial planning, insurance and more.

At AFBA, we recognize the strength and courage of first responder families, and we’re here to help. Find out more about the support and resources available to our members.

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While we should be thanking our firefighters, police, 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, no matter the incident, whether it's an accident, tragedy or natural disaster. 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 paramedics 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.

First Responders: The heroes of the pandemic
Only a few months after the first recognition of National First Responder Day, the COVID-19 pandemic would sweep the globe. First responders were the ones who stepped forward when no one else could.

Often first on the scene, emergency responders are exposed to unique and stressful situations that increase their likelihood of contraction. According to The Associated Press, many first responders have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19. And while the height of the pandemic is behind us, it's still just as crucial to support these brave front-line workers.

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

Continuing to Champion Public Safety
Outside of the pandemic, natural disasters caused destruction across the U.S. in the last few years, requiring firefighters, EMT providers and other first responders to show up in unprecedented force.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 60% of the topsoil and subsoil in the U.S. is experiencing moderate to severe drought. This has led to a staggering increase in wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that over 22 million acres of land were burned between 2020 and 2023. 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 23 weather disasters in 2023, as of September 25, with the number steadily rising since the 1980s.

Supporting Our First Responders Act
During the pandemic, it quickly became clear that the additional burdens placed on first responders were causing strain on the system. As a result, the same emergency situation could receive vastly different responses depending on where you live.

To combat these issues and provide greater support to critical responders, Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Carey (R-OH) have proposed the bipartisan Supporting Our First Responders Act.

This Act would authorize $50 million each year for the next 5 years for the new Department of Health and Human Services grant program. The aim of this program is to help both EMS providers and the personnel on the ground with:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Mental health care
  • Training reimbursements
  • Facility upgrades
  • And more

While the bill hasn't passed yet, it would undoubtedly help ease the stress put on EMS providers from the start of the pandemic.

Commemorating National First Responder Day
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 recognize the professionals who play an important role in ensuring the safety of every American citizen.

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Responding to emergencies is some of the most vital work in society — and simultaneously some of the most demanding. It's only fitting that first responders go into action equipped with the latest and greatest in technology.

From more advanced sensors and tracking systems to reliable communications networks, there is a wide array of tech tools that can make emergency personnel more effective and safer on the job. Developing new gear, along with the techniques to use it effectively, is an effort taken up by a wide variety of organizations, companies and agencies.

By diving into the current state of first responder tech, as well as the ongoing process of testing out new solutions, you can gain a new appreciation for this equipment and the brave people who use it.

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

Spotlight on DHS First Responder Tech Development

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) realizes the need for first responders to go into the field with only the best in advanced equipment. That's why the agency, through its Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), spearheads new research and development.

The first step in developing any tech tool is to find out what users need — what's the problem that a new piece of gear could solve? S&T consults with a panel of 120 current and retired first responders, called the First Responder Resource Group (FRRG), to figure out needs that are going unmet by existing equipment. The agency also listens to specific requests from teams dealing with extreme and unique circumstances, such as firefighters battling wildfires.

Some of the development projects targeting these currently observed needs include:

  • Enhanced globes for helicopter rescues: Performing aerial hoist rescues is remarkably hard on emergency workers' hands. This demands new glove materials and designs that can take the strain.
  • Lost Person Locator software: Searching for missing persons is most effective when there is a set of consistent protocols and data sets available. This new software tool aims to deliver those capabilities widely.
  • Routing software for vehicles: When commercial-grade navigation software isn't up to the task, first responders need a specialized tool set to get to emergencies in a timely manner. This new system accounts for weather, vehicle type, road conditions and more.
  • Smart chemical sensors: New wearable sensor technology can help first responders determine exactly what they're encountering in the air. The devices can give alarms if personnel reach exposure limits to dangerous substances.
  • New firefighter respiratory protectors: Firefighters battling wildfires sometimes spend hours in areas containing vapors, particles and carbon monoxide. A scarf-like respirator can protect them from these substances for up to 12 hours.

NIST Researches Communications Tech

DHS isn't the only agency putting research hours into new first responder tech projects. The National Institution of Standards and Technology recently conducted an extensive, over-five-year survey of communications needs by first responders.

The more than 7,000 people who shared their opinions stated that they need technology that is trustworthy, controllable and not frustrating to use. NIST explained that these values should direct the development and purchasing of tech, and gave six guidelines:

  • Improve current systems as a first resort before creating wholly new products.
  • Reduce unintended consequences of new tech adoption, such as distraction.
  • Avoid "one-size-fits-all" approaches because public safety is a varied field.
  • Don't develop tech for its own sake but rather to meet real, observed needs.
  • Lower costs of products and services to make tech scalable for wide adoption.
  • Focus on usability so first responders find it natural to get correct outcomes.

The steady march of tech development is always ongoing. Putting new offerings in the hands of first responders ensures that these breakthroughs are serving the public good.

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There are few days in U.S. history more consequential or somber than September 11, 2001. Every year since the deadly attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives, Americans have paused on September 11 to remember those who died, and to dedicate themselves to serving their communities.

In December 2001, Congress designated September 11 as Patriot Day, and in 2009, as part of the Serve America Act, the day also became a National Day of Service and Remembrance. By attending a memorial service, sharing your personal memories and experiences or by giving back to your local community this Patriot Day, you can ensure that the indefatigable spirit of the victims lives on.

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

What Happens Every Patriot Day?

In keeping with its solemn tone, Patriot Day is a time of contemplation and service. In the official White House announcement proclaiming last year's Patriot Day, President Joe Biden described some of the ways the government would be commemorating the anniversary.

All flags flown by government branches, agencies and departments fly at half-staff on September 11. A moment of  silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. eastern time, acknowledging the time when the first World Trade Center tower was struck.

There is also an annual observance ceremony carried out by the National Park Service at the Flight 93 National Memorial. This quiet location in southern Pennsylvania is the place where that flight crashed on September 11 when heroic passengers and crew prevented it from becoming part of the attacks.

The public service organization AmeriCorps also designates September 11 as one of its two annual National Days of Service, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The group encourages individuals to pledge to serve their neighbors and offers web resources that connect people with opportunities to help out near them.

Beyond these nationwide and local commemorations, each person can go into their community and perform acts of service on their own to ensure they are showing a resolute, civic-minded spirit on this tragic anniversary. This is an opportunity to put good into the world as part of mourning and remembrance.

What Are Some Ways to Observe Patriot Day?

At first, it can be difficult to know how to mark a somber day like September 11. However, there are numerous ways to remember the tragedy and honor the sacrifices of those who died that day through giving back to your community.

Perhaps the most fundamental part of observing the National Day of Service and Remembrance is simply showing love and kindness to the people in your life, friends, family and strangers alike. This attitude is a good foundation for acts of service, and a way to show that you honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives.

In a more concrete sense, you can also take part in volunteer projects. The National Park Service recommends getting out to serve, and runs its own events, some in conjunction with groups such as The Mission Continues, a nonprofit community impact group that helps veterans acclimate to lives at home following after they've served.

You can also share memories and reminiscences to ensure the sacrifices of those who perished on September 11, 2001, as well as the first responders who gave so much of themselves to provide assistance on that day, lives on. One of the legacies of September 11 is that everyday people can find heroism within themselves, and honoring that is part of Patriot Day.

We at AFBA hope you'll join us in honoring those who gave their lives September 11, 2001, and those who committed brave acts of service that day, on Patriot Day 2023 and beyond.

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When you imagine a first responder, what comes to mind? This role can come in many forms, but in times of emergency, they are on the scene to help stabilize a situation. This could be a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician (EMT). They are the people who help ensure everyone on the scene has the best chance of survival no matter the situation.

When you pick up the phone to dial 911, you know that a first responder will be on the other side of the line to give you the help you need.

But this wasn't always the case, and the role of a first responder dates back centuries. Let's uncover this rich history and gain more appreciation for those that dedicate their lives to the safety of others.

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

The initial concepts of a first responder

As people started to come together to settle into communities in one place, their way of living grew more technical. Along with cooking, a fire was used for light and warmth inside individuals' homes — which were typically made of mud, wood and dried branches and leaves. When a fire broke out, people had little control over how to manage the fire when it caught hold of multiple buildings at once.

In ancient Rome, during the times of Augustus in 62 BC to 14 AD, there was an office called Aedile which overlooked the procurement and maintenance of public buildings. Because people in the city lived in such proximity, it wasn't uncommon for a fire to break out in a flash. The aedile developed a group called the Vigiles who were responsible for managing the fire and putting it out as soon as possible before it caught on to other buildings.

Ancient ambulances

EMT history wasn't too far off from what it is now — besides the extensive medical technology packed within emergency vehicles today. In the 1400s, carts were used to transport patients from their homes to the hospital. This method was developed during the Spanish siege of Málaga by the Catholic Monarchs against the Emirate of Granada in 1487.

Saving lives in the 20th century

War times can bring about a lot of innovation when people are in trouble, in need and incapacitated. In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon had just taken office and inherited a report done in 1965. It noted that the leading cause of accidental death was car crashes. And, in 1965, the number of deaths overshadowed fallen soldiers in the Korean War.

From here, the "White Paper" made several recommendations for how to counteract these avoidable tragedies including an outline of what we consider first responders: a brigade of police officers, ambulances and firefighters trained and ready for action at a moment's notice.

Evolving to stay one step ahead of emergencies

Since the 1980s, first responders have established the best practices, medicines and care we know and expect today. Like many modern conveniences we experience daily that make our lives safer and more simple, the history of the first responder came when necessity called for it. Every day we can give thanks to the people who stand up to answer the call of duty.

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Paramedics are the front lines of any medical-related 911 emergency — they’re the ones who are expected to respond to repeated life-or-death scenarios in a calm, collected manner.

This tolerance for extreme stress while maintaining a steady hand is a special skill all paramedics must have. That’s why not everyone has what it takes. But choosing to become a paramedic is an honorable — and challenging — way of performing public service.

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

Decide if being a paramedic is for you

Paramedics are similar to emergency room doctors in that they deal with medical crises that often put the patient’s life in their hands. However, their roles in the process aren’t the same. A paramedic’s job is to stabilize a patient so they’re fit to be taken to a hospital or clinic, then drive them there in an ambulance (or sometimes, a helicopter or airplane).

The ability to stay calm in an intense environment is critical. Problem-solving skills are also a must, as it’s up to you to decide what the best course of action is after you assess the situation. You’ll want strong communication skills; you’ll need to effectively talk to patients and families who are in distress and may not be able to speak clearly.

You should know what to expect from your education, including paramedic school, which will put you in a high-stress environment to prepare you for the intensity of the job. Your physical fitness will be tested to ensure you have the proper amount of strength and endurance to handle a wide variety of situations in rapid succession. Many paramedics work 12-hour shifts or more, including at night, so you’ll want to be in top shape.

Consider your personality type and aptitudes before you decide to pursue a career as a paramedic.

Get the right education

Paramedics, while extensively trained, do not need to pass medical school and they don’t have letters after their names. In short, they’re not doctors.

However, this is not to imply paramedics don’t require a great deal of education. A license is required to be a paramedic, and obtaining one requires unwavering dedication and physical and mental endurance. Start by graduating high school or earning a GED, and then you can expect to go through this sequence:

  1. Get your EMT-Basic certification. Normally, this takes six months. This will teach you the basics, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and non-invasive treatment.
  2. Work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for at least six months. Many paramedic schools prefer you have some experience as an EMT before you apply.
  3. Enroll in paramedic training. This generally takes 1-2 years to complete and is much more intensive than getting EMT-Basic certification. It’s essentially an advanced course, where you’ll learn invasive treatments such as intubation.
  4. Earn your license. Next is passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam, which will put you through tests such as out-of-hospital training scenarios, trauma management and dynamic cardiology.
  5. Pass the state-specific exam if needed. Some states require this; others don’t.

If you’d like to get started, check out the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians guide of where to start training.

If you think you have what it takes, step up and become a paramedic

If you can become a paramedic, congratulations are in order: You’ve earned the honor of being a vital first responder. Becoming a paramedic and serving as one is by no means easy — but if you’re willing to test your limits, you too can join the honored ranks.

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Virtually everyone has used insurance at least once. It comes in a wide range of forms covering practically everything, from life and auto insurance to protection for parcels in the mail. You can even insure items like your watch or smartphone against being lost or stolen. The list may genuinely be endless.

If it can be insured, someone probably offers coverage for it. But do you regularly compare your insurance needs with the insurance you own? Are you getting what you need at the right price?

Do you need life insurance when you’re young (you do) or should you wait until you’re older? How likely do you think you are to be in an auto accident? Are you covered if you become ill or injured and need an emergency room visit or hospitalization?

Depending on the answers to questions like these, you may wish to alter your insurance plans. That’s what National Insurance Awareness Day — observed on June 28 every year — is for.

Insurance has been available for thousands of years

Some of the earliest civilizations had insurance. Somewhere between 4000 and 3000 BCE, Babylonian sea merchants would purchase bottomry contracts. These had a ship’s owner use their vessel as collateral in exchange for a loan including interest. If the ship was lost at sea or heavily damaged, the insurer would be out of luck; but if the ship returned safely in good condition, the loan and its interest would be repaid.

Marine insurance continued to develop in new forms across the world, including in ancient Greece and those who traded with them. The Romans, while they were busy revolutionizing civilization, invented life insurance.

In the 17th century, the famous and still-existing Lloyd’s of London was founded. Its founder, Edward Lloyd, would gather information about shipments from docks and compile them into the Lloyd’s List publication. While its information-gathering is a little more sophisticated than when it began, Lloyd’s List is still being updated today.

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

Why evaluate your insurance needs?

First, consider what you want to be insured. Medical bills and your automobile are some of the most popular options. Other types such as life insurance are all too often passed over.

Even if you have all the insurance you need, you may be paying too much. Rates are constantly changing, and it’s worth the time and effort to shop around for the best price.

If your life circumstances change, so should your insurance. Have you taken a new job that requires driving in dense traffic? Has your health changed? What about your marital status? Many life events warrant taking a fresh look at your insurance options.

You don’t necessarily need to shop for a new insurance provider and go through the paperwork all over again. You can talk to your current company and ask if they have other choices or promotions that might better suit your life situation. Many insurance companies allow you to customize your plan online.

Seeking out other ways to lower your insurance costs is something else to consider. Have you purchased a new car with advanced safety features? Bring it up with your auto insurance company. Are you taking care of yourself better? Maybe hitting the gym more, eating well and better controlling your weight? You could be eligible for health insurance discounts.

Look at your insurance options on National Insurance Awareness Day

It’s strongly recommended that you take the time annually to look at all your insurance options and find the best policies and rates that fit your specific needs.

Perhaps the most important thing you get from insurance is peace of mind. Knowing you’re covered in the event of an incident makes you feel better with less stress and worry — which can mean a longer lifespan and better overall health.