First Responders are there for us when we are at our worst, so how do you say thank you to someone for helping you through a rough time?
Good question friends, and one I have asked myself many times.
Every time there’s an incident that get’s publicized on TV, I get at least three emails asking ‘how do I really thank a first responder?’
Yes, they do love food, but often times people want to do something a little more meaningful and sometimes more lasting than just dropping by a cake (that likely won’t get eaten!)
Here are 10 ways anyone in the public can really thank a first responder and make a lasting impact!
10 ways to say thank you to a first responder
You can volunteer, but let’s be specific
Maybe a First Responder contributed to your situation, or you just really want to give back to those men and women who have kept your town, state and country safe. Either way, volunteering for First Responder Events and Charities is a great way to make your mark.
You can give your time or wisdom to a wounded first responders organization. And that can look like making phone calls, delivering meals, helping with transportation to doctors appointments or joining in on fundraising events.
You could also help out a charity for first responders like Toys for Tots- because that helps First Responders meet even more community needs!
Here are three great organizations you can contact to help!
Gary Sinise Foundation (they meet the needs of Veterans and First Responders in many ways, including sponsorships and camps)
First Responder Children’s Foundation (Helps Children whose parents have died in the Line of Duty)
Operation Gratitude (sends letters and care packages to Military and First Responders)
Say it proudly
One of the things about thanking a First Responder? They really need your support on the good days and the bad!
You can say thank you just by showing your support. This could be flying a flag, wearing a tshirt, or putting a decal on your car.
Don’t ask a first responder what their worst call was, or horror stories, or crazy stories. Instead, ask them what it means to be a first responder.
Ask them about the best call they’ve ever been on!
Maybe you’ll go so far as to ask them for their advice, or maybe you’d love to see what they would tell their younger self.
First Responders are just like you and me, and if you could lend them your ear, you’ll make their day a little bit brighter!
Make it a Community Event for First Responders
Keep your eye out for community events, and if you dont see any, contact your town, city and county council members to ask them what they are doing to celebrate our first responders.
Often times, First Responders get very little recognition, even on their ‘appreciation days’. I mean… firefighters don’t even have a nationally recognized day here in the US.
If you can join in a community event, you can let First Responders know how valued they are as members of the community.
National Night Out, a community event for making connections with First Responders has this list of ideas. “Neighborhoods host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and much, much more.”
A simple thank you goes a long way. So does a smile and a wave!
These days, most First Responders are dealing with the media labeling them a hero one day, and a zero the next.
We call this ‘hero to zero’ syndrome, and it plays a big toll on the mental wellness of First Responders as they begin to feel like no one wants them around (but we do! )
Say Hi, Wave, Give them a Smile! It goes a long way!
Make a big deal out of their big days!
Celebrating Police Officers started in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the same week as Police Week.
And we have Armed Forces day, established by President Truman in 1950, in the same week as National Armed Forces week (and of course, specific days for the individual branches of the military)
Plus there’s the celebration of our important National EMS week, created in 1974 by President Ford.
And naturally, there’s a week for Public Safety Telecommunicators (dispatchers) that was signed in 1991 by President Bill Clinton.
We also have National Volunteer Firefighter Day (specifically volunteer) that President Reagan signed in 1984 for August 18th. Obviously important, as roughly 70% of our nation’s Firefighters are Volunteers.
And Finally, we have National First Responders day, October 28th, that was established in 2017.
(Career Firefighters don’t have an official day or week in the US, but they are recognized with their own International Day on May 4th)
This is my First Responders number one request! He loves (and so does his station) to get a card or letter in the mail or dropped off.
Most of the times, First Responders don’t know what happens after the event. A letter or card can be a way to bring closure to a call- for both you and the First Responders that helped out.
If you don’t have a specific reason in mind, write a generic card! You can do these all the time, and especially to places like operation gratitude who has a network to pass them out!
Buy them a Bible
BLEO is on a mission to make sure every military and first responder has a Bible! You can support their mission by buying a bible, sharing their message, or just liking them on social media to give them more street cred.
Want to drop your own Bible off at the station? Highlight some of these verses to help encourage First Responders in their relationship with God.
Can you spare a card?
Next time your at the grocery store, can you grab a 10 dollar card for the market, or a local food place? Or even the next time you get a free card…
Drop off some food or gift cards to your local stations!
This is especially if you know that one of the members is dealing with an injury or cancer. Cancer is impacting firefighters at double and triple the national average and they can use all the community support you have to offer!
Lastly, Only use 911 for true emergencies.
That sounds silly, but it’s true, I saved the best for last. These lines get tied up all the time with people calling to complain.
I kindly ask you to use the NON emergency numbers you can find online and in the phone book.
Do your local station a solid favor and post a friendly PSA to your local word of mouth groups that the NON emergency number is who to call for lost or stranded pets, music being too loud, and trash blowing into your yard from a neighbors hoarder house.
These calls will get investigated by the proper authorities (often the same or next day) without clogging up the line for true emergencies where seconds matter to save a life!
Also, you can buy them a gift
I have this one family member, and if she’s reading this, she’ll know exactly who she is! Why? Because she LOVES to buy gifts. Everything above was mostly time related, or simple, but sometimes you just want to give a really good gift!
Here’s a list of items every Firefighter could use , and shout out to the Law Enforcement Officers by grabbing something for them from this guide. EMS (Paramedics and EMTs) and dispatch will be VERY happy with a gift card for coffee or food (they are constantly running so food is precious to them!)