Many people have their opinion on our volunteer first responders (firefighters, highway rescue technicians, RCMSAR crew), but few understand that to these courageous volunteers it’s not a fun hobby or just something to do when your bored.
There are late nights, early mornings, missing out on many things including a warm meal with family. That pager goes off and their life ceases to be theirs, family plans get pushed off, celebrations stop; they could be warm and snuggled in bed one moment and running out the door the next.
Now it may sound that I’m a bitter person but, on the contrary, I’m one of the spouses left at home when the pager goes off. I have heard grumbling about the sirens or the road being closed. People need to realize these volunteers switching on the sirens and holding up traffic are the same volunteers that may have to save your life from that crumpled car, or put out the fire at your home.
These men and women don’t make money for the most part – there are no benefits or sick pay. They do it for the love of helping others. These volunteers do an unbelievable amount of training and studying so they can do their best for the person in need, but most first responders still have jobs to pay the bills. On occasion, they are able to leave work when the pager goes off, but that often means loss of wages.
Loss of pay isn’t the only thing they have to worry about. Many first responders experience burn out, depression, post-traumatic stress, suicide, or turn to substance use. Not so long ago, all these things were overlooked and ignored.
One in three first responders suffer in silence, but with a growing willingness to access help, things are finally starting to change. Resources are becoming accessible not only for first responders but also for their families.
First responders are our saviours, the people that are there for us at the worst possible moment. They are the calm, cool, collected person that know what to do when we need them, and rushes to the rescue at the sound of the pager.
To all the wonderful men and women working as first responders, thank you for all you do.