05/05/13 289 W - + 7 - 2 First Responders < The Words

What do you think about the words "First Responders" as a label for the people who work in emergency services? Our prior posting about a local "First Responder Career Expo" has me thinking about this.

For an event description such as a career fair, the words "First Responder Career Expo" are entirely fine. We might argue that "Emergency Services Career Expo" is a bit more descriptive to the lay person. Even more self-explanatory would be a like "Fire - EMS - Law Enforcement - Emergency Communications Career Expo."

That title's totally descriptive, but really too long for a poster. Ditto for branding, and the necessary short or easy label for identifying the event. (Shorter labels always work better in branding and communication. That's just the way it is.)

So what's the best catch-call here? What's the best label for firefighters, medics, law officers, and telecommunicators? "First responders" is adequate, sure. "Emergency workers" might be a bit better, though it gets me thinking of emergency room workers as well. (Don't even try to get me to correctly identify every type of person that works in an ER.) "

"Emergency crews" is plural and usually  means a larger quantity. "Emergency crew member" doesn't really work. What other labels might be good? (How about "safety personnel" as Dave Statter once observed and railed against!)

Where noses can get bent is in news reports. Such as when headlines or story text says things like "first responders brought the fire under control." Readers, your thoughts? What's your favorite label for these people, for usage in various contexts?

I think the term Public Safety has fairly widespread understanding. Of course it used to mean cross trained FF/police, but it really doesn’t mean that anymore.

More importantly to me, however, you’ve got me started on the word “medic” now. I’m on a one-man war against the term medic.

Why? First, it does mean something else. It’s a military term for people who do a similar but different job.

But more importantly, the term “paramedic” has gained universal understanding and very powerful branding to describe exactly who and what we are. EVERYONE knows what a paramedic is and what their work environment is. We’ve got an uphill battle with identity in EMS as it is. We should hang on to things that are proven identifiers.

But what do we do? We throw that universally recognizable branding in the trash can out of sheer laziness by reducing it by two syllables. I don’t think it’s worth the savings.

The words medic and paramedic have a very different look and feel. More importantly, they have different word recognition qualities, which matters since we read by word recognition and not by assembling letters.

Ranting, I know, but I think it’s pertinent.
Jeff - 05/05/13 - 12:07

It’s amazing that we seem so hung up on what we are called, and I can count myself among those folks in the past, but fortunately, I have gotten past that. I know my firefighting and law enforcing brethren can be a little sensitive to it at times, but it is what it is. For EMS it seems to be more pervasive. Still, we have bigger problems and issues other than what people call us.

The term ‘first responder’, which hit the scene a few decades ago when the ‘first responder’ classes were introduced, has gained a certain bit of ‘acceptance’ amongst the media, since they can condense us all into a single term- we ARE the ones they call first. The public seems to understand it, since I have been ‘praised’ by members of the general public for my work as a ‘first responder’.

Many in EMS bristle at the term ‘ambulance driver’ when that term is used, but I think that is more because many still, after 40 years, understand what it is we do. Plus, when you get down to it, we DO drive ambulances. But still, it is a hard pill to swallow sometimes after attending school for more than a little bit to do what it is we do.

As to ‘medic’ vs. ‘paramedic’? Me personally, I prefer to use the term ‘medics’ to include everyone on the ambulance- EMT, EMT-I, and EMT-P. Sure, some people use the term ‘paramedics’, but I have found that a lot of our fellow ‘first responders’ use the term ‘medic’ more- “call the medics” or “get the medics over here” or “I need the medics!”.

Plus, having been a ‘medic’ in the Army, the name is a term of endearment, and for me, it is the highest form of complement I can provide to my fellow medics. Anyone can be an EMT, and EMT-I, or an EMT-P, but to be a ‘medic’, well, you have to earn that. To me it embodies the idea of taking care of people- patients and co-workers and co-first responders. Anyone who has ever heard the term “MEDIC UP!”, “MEDIC! MEDIC!”, or heard the way fellow soldiers speak the term medic will understand. It’s the same way that Marines refer to their ‘corpsman’.
DJ - 05/05/13 - 22:10

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