First Responders are ‘Crisis Heroes’ in Action — Here’s How We Work with Them

When there is a shooting or crime committed, they are the first on the scene. When there is a burning building, they are the first to arrive. When you find yourself in the middle of an emergency and no one else to turn to, they answer your call for help.

“They” are first responders.

‘First responders’ are defined as brave men and women who are called upon to take immediate action, selflessly running toward danger, tragedy, disaster, emergency or a crisis situation. While there are various types of first responders and their acts of service vary, what they represent remains constant — courage, strength, determination and hope in the face of adversity.

This October 28 is recognized annually as National First Responders Day and, as a biohazard cleaning company that frequently works hand-in-hand or in coordination with many first responders throughout the state of Alabama, we extend our deepest gratitude to these remarkable “crisis heroes” in action.

Whether you are a firefighter, EMT, law enforcement officer, paramedic or other emergency department personnel, we salute you today and always, and we are proud to work alongside you or extend our biohazard remediation knowledge to help you in your own time of need!

The Definition of First Responders Day

It seems unethical to think that the U.S. only just set aside a special day to recognize first responders while National Pizza Day has been in existence for more than 20 years…

National First Responders Day was officially recognized for the first time on Oct. 28, 2017, in large part, because of the advocacy of Andrew Collier. Andrew Collier was the brother of MIT police officer Sean Collier, who tragically was shot and killed during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Andrew Collier fought to start a movement of support for the nation’s first responders, and eventually, word of the movement reached senators in Washington D.C. who moved to create a national day of recognition for first responders.

With more than 25 million first responders currently working in the U.S., National First Responders Day is not only a time to say “thank you” to them, but to understand and educate others about the unique struggles that so many first responders face as an essential part of our country.

The Dangers First Responders Face

The job of a first responder often requires that they face traumatic situations regularly. Fires, mass fatality scenes, homicides, violent crime scenes — with these (and more) life-threatening, frightening and stressful experiences, it’s no wonder that first responders are at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a work-related injury or condition.

According to the Institutes of Health, more than 80 percent of first responders experience traumatic events on the job, while roughly 1 in 3 first responders develop PTSD. In comparison, in the general population, the incidence of PTSD is 1 in 5 people. Some 15% of paramedics and 5% of police officers exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

The most common symptoms of PTSD include nightmares and flashbacks of distressing events, physical symptoms such as chronic pain, sweating, jitteriness, headaches, dizziness and chest pains, irritability, sleep problems, angry outbursts and difficulty concentrating.

But the grief, loss, pain and horror they might experience from various accidents or incidences on the job are actually not the only dangers. They also can face more subtle threats like exposure to contaminated or biohazardous materials from scenes in need of biohazard cleanup.

In some cases, even individuals needing transportation via ambulance could have been exposed to biohazardous contaminants, including potential pathogens like HIV, hepatitis, influenza and COVID-19, then putting the first responders at increased risk of exposure.

A “biohazard site” is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as one where the general area or items have been contaminated with blood or bodily fluids. Common biohazard materials include:

  • Blood
  • Bodily fluids
  • Wastewater such as sewage
  • Rodent droppings
  • Decomposition of dead bodies
  • Decomposing animals
  • Tear gas residue

The general public often falsely believes that crime scenes, vehicular accidents and other situations where biohazardous materials might be present are the responsibility of first responders, especially in the case of law enforcement officers and firefighters, to clean and sanitize the area. This often could not be further from the truth, as many first responders do not have the training, experience or equipment to safely remediate a contaminated scene or their own contaminated first responder vehicles.

Alabama Bio-Clean technicians pay a visit to Huntsville Fire & Rescue.

In addition, if the contaminated scene is located on the property of an individual, it is in fact, that individual’s responsibility to clean up the scene in the aftermath of the crisis or traumatic event.

This is where an experienced biohazard cleaning company like Alabama Bio-Clean, steps up to safely perform biohazard site cleanup and remediation, usually arriving second on the scene to first responders, either by direct request or first responder referral to the individual property owner or family.

The safe and efficient biohazard site cleanup and remediation services we provide include:

We are proud to be the top referred Alabama biohazard cleaning company of many of our local first responders throughout the Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery areas.

Putting First Responder’s Mental Health First

Unless people find themselves facing an emergency, the job of a first responder often gets taken for granted and very little thought is given to the toll that frequent exposure to traumatic events can take on a first responder’s mental health. In addition, its members are often the last to ask for professional help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), first responders can easily experience burnout (feelings of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed) or secondary traumatic stress (such as PTSD). Coping techniques like taking breaks, eating healthy foods, exercising and using the “buddy system” (working in teams instead of alone) can prevent or reduce burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

As a first responder, here are some self-care techniques the CDC recommends you practice:

  • Limit working hours to no longer than 12-hour shifts.
  • Work in team.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Talk to family, friends, supervisors and teammates about your feelings and experiences.
  • Practice breathing and relaxation techniques.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and get adequate sleep and exercise.
  • Know that it is okay to draw the boundaries and say no.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and use of alcohol.

Thank a First Responder

First responders are truly crisis heroes in action. From catching criminals to rushing into burning buildings, they willingly put their lives on the line daily to make life safer for everyone else.

Remember to give thanks to first responders, today and every day. It doesn’t take much, and there are a few simple, thoughtful ways you might accomplish that.

If you see a first responder (s) out and about, a simple “thank you” can often be enough to make their day. If you see EMTs in a local coffee shop, consider buying them a coffee. Offer to pay for a meal if you see a first responder picking up lunch. A letter of “thanks” to a first responder who has helped you is a small act of kindness you can easily perform.

First Responders First recommends other ways you might thank a first responder, like dropping off pizzas for healthcare workers or paramedics, firefighters at fire stations or law enforcement at police stations. Make a small donation in their name at charitable events. Or, if you own a local business, you might consider offering a discount to first responders.

However big or small a way you choose to give your thanks, letting a first responder know you recognize the sacrifices they make daily to their communities (and their own families) serves to remind them of why they do what they do.

Alabama Bio-Clean, is Honored to Help First Responders in Their Time of Need

Alabama Bio-Clean, is honored to provide two specific and much-needed professional services directly to law enforcement: Squad car and jail cell decontamination.

Many times, police officers can unknowingly come into contact with hidden hazards on the job that are a result of squad cars or jail cells contaminated by unhealthy pathogens from things like vomit, urine, blood or feces. Alabama Bio-Clean, highly trained technicians have access to professional tools, personal protective equipment and necessary commercial-grade cleaning products that can ensure the safety of law enforcement and others who could potentially be exposed to the area of contamination.

Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, our technicians come to the location to work closely with county administrators and police officials on safe biohazard remediation of vehicles, equipment or sites, providing the appropriate documentation needed for the process afterward.

Being this one-stop biohazard cleaning shop for law enforcement so that they don’t have to worry about exposure is the least that we can do to show our great appreciation to those who have committed their lives to keeping the lives of all of the rest of us safe. Thank you for your service now and always, first responders.