What Exactly Does a First Responder Do?

If you have ever been in an accident, or witnessed an emergency, then you may have seen the impact and importance of first responders for yourself. Those people who are the first on a scene are so essential as they preserve life, help those in need and provide aid in a medical emergency.

What Is The Role Of A First Responder

So, what exactly is the role of a first responder, what are their responsibilities and what training do they have in order to react and respond to a range of emergencies and situations? That is what this guide is all about! We will tell you exactly what a first responder is there for.

The role of a first responder is to provide assistance and medical care for emergency situations and circumstances. As such, first responders can be paramedics, emergency medical technicians, police officers, firefighters and other medical professionals.

Whilst each first responder may be trained in a range of tasks and specialities, they are all there ultimately to save lives, provide care and help those in need! So, let’s find out exactly what first responders do. 

What Is A First Responder?

In its basic sense, a first responder is someone who has specialized training and knowledge, who will be among the first to arrive at a scene of an emergency, to provide medical help and assistance.

According to the Homeland Security website, a first responder is ‘often the primary line of defense for US Communities, responding to an evolving spectrum of natural and man-made threats.’ 

These people are the individuals who are available and responsible for the early stages of an incident, emergency or accident.

In these cases, they will be viable for the preservation and protection of life, evidence, property and environmental factors in order to provide support and care for all those involved. 

A first responder may therefore be skilled personnel, equipment operators, medical professionals, trained professionals or other workers that can save lives, provide medical care and assist in emergency situations. 

Therefore, a first responder may be an Emergency Medical Technician, who can offer medical support and transport patients to the nearest hospital, or a firefighter, who can remove threats or free people trapped in their car or underneath buildings. 

In addition, you may need police officers to detain assailants, or arrest someone at a crime scene, you can also require paramedics to offer CPR and life support to those in need. All of these come under the umbrella of the ‘first responder’ title.

The whole purpose of a first responder is to arrive quickly at the scene of an emergency, and help control the situation, or spring into action if needed.

What Does A First Responder Do?

The main role of a first responder is to react very quickly and efficiently to an emergency scene or incident, and protect the lives of those there and those around the incident.

They are also responsible for protecting property, evidence and the environment that is involved, in order to diffuse the situation. 

These people are trained to respond quickly to a situation, and make choices built upon the best way to preserve, protect and save lives. For instance, a police officer may be first on the scene of a crime, such as a domestic disturbance.

They may arrive and find that someone has been attacked with a knife, and needs urgent medical care, they would then assess the situation, call Paramedics or medical professionals, whilst another officer chases after the assailant. 

First responders are all different, and have different jobs and roles to do. However they must all work in conjunction with each other as a team to have the best chance of preserving life and dealing with an emergency.

For instance, in the event of a terror attack, there will be all manner of first responders at the scene, to rescue whilst offering first aid, medical care, support and protection. 

What Qualifications Will A First Responder Need?

First responders

As first responders can be various types of people, and have different careers, the qualifications may be slightly different. That being said, to work in a first responder role, many of the expectations and requirements are similar.

For the most part, to enter the fire service, police force, or to become an EMT, you will need to be over the age of 18, and have a High School Diploma, or equivalent. In addition, you may need some basic medical training such as CPR, or first aid to help you become a first responder.

In some cases, such as in the fire department, you may even be required to be an EMT, or qualified as an EMT before gaining a firefighting role. 

Upon recruitment, you will then most likely join a police academy or fire academy where you will be trained, tested and examined to see if you are fit for the role.

In addition, you will have to complete training programs, examinations, and assessments to qualify as a police officer, firefighter, or other job roles.

In other cases, such as Paramedics, or EMTs, you would have to undertake training hours and practice hours before being allowed to take the exam, and qualify.

In the case of Paramedics, some people may have gained a university degree to become a Paramedic, whereas others will have started as EMTs and trained, to work their way up to Paramedic.

In many first responder roles, there are degrees and certifications that can be obtained in order to gain the job, but these are often not entirely necessary.

As these jobs have so much training and experience to go through before qualifying, many people can become first responders without a degree. However, there will be a lot of training post-recruitment to follow. 

There are always new protocols, equipment and situations to get used to, and so first responders will have to complete new training procedures all the time!

In terms of training and qualifications, police officers are not required to be licensed under law, and neither are firefighters, however, firefighters are often trained as EMTs, which does need to be licensed by the NREMT to a certain standard.

Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics will also need to be fully licensed and certified in CPR, injecting and other medical practices by the NREMT in order to work in their job roles. 

What Responsibilities Will A First Responder Have?

The term first responder covers a broad spectrum. Therefore, the responsibilities will vary depending on the career, or the role of the first responder. For instance, a Police Officer is there to restore peace and order at an incident or accident.

This can also involve securing the scene, protecting evidence, gathering information from witnesses, and detaining people at the scene of a crime or incident. 

However, they may also be CPR or first aid trained, and will be able to provide basic medical care or life saving tactics if they need to. 

On the other hand, you will have firefighters that could respond first to the scene. Then, they will protect or rescue any individuals who may be trapped or injured. Of course, firefighters can also suppress and extinguish fires if needed, and can see to any injuries that those involved may have. 

Firefighters are most often qualified as EMTs, and can provide medical care. In addition, many fire departments may have their own Paramedics, who can also be deployed in the state of an emergency to preserve life and take patients to the emergency room for urgent treatment. 

Finally, of course, you have qualified EMTs and Paramedics that would also be first responders at a scene.

The primary purpose of an EMT is to provide first aid and very basic medical care to preserve life, stabilize patients, and keep them well enough to be transported to the hospital or nearest treatment center. 

They will also speak with local hospitals to inform them of their arrival, and ensure that they are prepared and equipped to deal with the patients. 

Similarly, Paramedics are capable of stabilizing patients and providing medical care, but to a much higher level than an EMT as they are far more qualified and educated when it comes to urgent medical services.

In these cases, an EMT would act as a support to the Paramedic, and would most often be the one driving the patient to the hospital in an ambulance, whilst the Paramedic offers them care. 

However, EMTs and Paramedics are not responsible for all of the patient’s support. They are more there to preserve and stabilize.

For instance, they would stop and prevent a bleed, to ensure that a patient does not bleed out after an accident, whilst rushing them to hospital for surgery or more intricate treatments by a specialist. 

What Training Does A First Responder Have?

Most first responders will need a high school diploma or GED in order to become a first responder. They will also need to be highly trained and qualified to deal with emergency events, hazardous situations, and will need basic medical training in order to do their jobs properly.

The majority of first responders will need to pass first aid training, CPR training and even have an EMT basic level certification.

This certification can be gained through the fire service, or in the police academy during initial training and recruitment, however, many people may feel like gaining this qualification themselves at a community college or another institution. 

Almost all first responders will have hours of training in their specific roles before even being sent out into the field, and will need to pass tests to a high standard before practicing as an EMT/Police Officer/Firefighter, or whatever the role is.

They will also be trained to deal with high risk situations in a calm manner, and will be required to show that they are physically, mentally and emotionally able to handle these emergencies and incidents with respect, dedication and care. 

Where Will A First Responder Work?

First responders will work in a variety of environments, as they can work in a range of different roles. However, most first responders tend to go into the police or sheriff’s departments in the US. 

Statistics show that over 600,000 first responders work in police departments, whereas over 300,000 work for fire departments, and around 250,000 work as Paramedics or EMTs.

What this tells us is that the majority of first responders are working for local governments, in roles like police officers and firefighters, whereas Paramedics and EMTs may be working for private ambulance companies, or hospitals and other services.  


To summarize, the role of a first responder is to be the first person at the scene of an incident or emergency, and provide medical care, support, attention and protection to those involved. Their core responsibilities are to preserve life, protect property, evidence and support for the environment around them.