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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

EMS and First Responders

As the people on the front lines of health, first responders play a vital role in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Whether it is a major natural disaster, like Hurricane Sandy, or a small local event, EMS personnel, firefighters and other first responders are often first on the scene and they are a critical part of getting the people the care they need when disaster strikes.

Learn to Support Law Enforcement

  • CONTOMS: Counter Narcotics and Terrorism Operational Medical Support: Law enforcement officers work in the line of fire, and medical professionals need specialized training to provide emergency care when bullets are still flying. CONTOMS provides nationally recognized training that helps EMTs, paramedics, and physicians save lives on the scene so that law enforcement officers can live to serve another day.

Preparing Yourself and Your Family

  • Promote Responder Health and Safety: Disasters pose obvious risks to responder health and safety, but there are some key things that you can do to protect yourself and your colleagues when you respond, like avoiding fatigue and making sure that you use personal protective equipment effectively. Check out this collection of resources from ASPR TRACIE to find out what you need to know to promote health in a disaster.

  • Become More Resilient: When first responders have the tools and support that they need to take care of themselves and manage stress, the team as a whole is more effective. Find out what you can do before, during, and after a deployment to increase your resilience.

  • Get Vaccinated: Vaccination is an important step every first responder should take to get ready to respond. Vaccine-preventable diseases like tetanus are more common in the wake of disasters. Stay up to date on your immunizations so that you are more protected when a disaster strikes.

Support Disaster Behavioral Health

  • Get Trained In Psychological First Aid: Exit Icon When a disaster strikes, first responders are called on to help people who are anxious, stressed, or having a hard time coping. Learn how you can help people using Psychological First Aid. The course is free, but the skills you learn could be priceless.

  • SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health App: Help survivors deal with fear, loss, and uncertainty in the wake of a disaster. Put behavioral health resources at your fingertips with the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health App.

  • Disaster Behavioral Health: Exit Icon Every disaster can cause worry, stress, and behavioral health issues. Learn about disaster behavioral health now so you are ready to provide compassionate care when disaster strikes.

Technical Resources for an All-Hazards Response

  • Disaster Response for Pre-Hospital Medical Services: Pre-hospital services provide critical patient care every day, but their skills and services are especially important when disaster strikes. Learn how traditional and evolving pre-hospital services can help protect health and save lives when disaster strikes.

  • SOFA Score and Triage: Exit Icon The Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) score is a scoring system that assesses the performance of several organ systems in the body and assigns a score based on the data obtained in each category. The higher the SOFA score, the higher the likely mortality. Of the scoring systems available, SOFA achieves a good balance between easily available data and good prediction. Learn more about the advantages and limitations of the system before a disaster strikes.

  • HIPAA and Disasters: What Emergency Professionals Need to Know: Exit Icon When a disaster strikes, there are frequent, rapid requests for information about illness and injury. Learn what patient information can be released, to whom, and under what circumstances before a disaster strikes.

Responding to Chemical Emergencies

Responding Ebola and Other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

  • EMS Infectious Disease Playbook: Exit Icon How can EMS responders safely and effectively fight infectious diseases? How should responders react if they unexpectedly encounter a patient they suspect has an infectious disease? What procedures should EMS responders follow to protect themselves and their patients? These are just a few of the complex questions addressed in the new EMS Infectious Disease Playbook.

  • EMS and Infectious Diseases: Challenges and Resources for Provider Protection: Exit Icon How has the Ebola response informed the day-to-day encounters of the EMS community with a full range of infectious agents? What lessons have been learned from exercises and real-life experiences? Check out this video for an in-depth look at challenges to the EMS community from experts in the field.

  • Highly Pathogenic Infectious Disease Exercise Planning Tools: Exit Icon The health care system can prepare to manage patients with highly pathogenic infectious disease by conducting exercises based on the regional, tiered approach set forth by ASPR for Ebola. Learn more about the exercise planning tools that are available to help you plan for an infectious disease outbreak.

Serve Your Community

  • Medical Reserve Corps: Medical Reserve Corps volunteers do amazing work during disasters & every day. Find out how you can use your skills to help your community. The Medical Reserve Corps has a wide range of opportunities to serve your community. Even if you aren’t a health professional, there are lots of ways that you can help.

  • This page last reviewed: April 26, 2018