First responders are on the front lines of our nation's response to COVID-19. The challenges they face are immense and the toll of their work on their mental health can be significant. This page contains suggestions to help first responders cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), first responders may experience burnout and secondary traumatic stress during prolonged exposure to emergencies.
Recognize the signs of both of these conditions in yourself and other responders to be sure those who need a break or need help can address these needs.
|Signs of burnout||Signs of secondary traumatic stress|
|Sadness, depression or apathy.||Excessive worry or fear about something bad happening.|
|Feeling easily startled, or “on guard” all of the time.|
|Having nightmares or recurrent thoughts about the traumatic situation.|
Learn more and view the full list of signs.
Coping techniques like taking breaks, eating healthy foods, exercising and using the buddy system can help prevent and reduce burnout and secondary traumatic stress. The CDC recommends:
Learn more about managing stress and anxiety.
If you've been exposed to a confirmed or suspected COVID patient and/or staff member, follow this CDC guidance: Follow-up and/or Reporting Measures by EMS Clinicians After Caring for a PUI or Patient with Confirmed COVID-19.
To protect the people in your household, you may need to practice social distancing, quarantine or isolation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines these terms as:
Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health – Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
If You Are Sick or Caring for Someone. CDC.
This guidance was developed by the Federal Healthcare Resilience Task Force (HRTF). The HRTF is leading the development of a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. healthcare system to facilitate resiliency and responsiveness to the threats posed by COVID-19. The Task Force's EMS/Pre-Hospital Team is comprised of public and private-sector EMS and 911 experts from a wide variety of agencies and focuses on responding to the needs of the pre-hospital community. This team is composed of subject matter experts from NHTSA OEMS, CDC, FEMA, USFA, U.S. Army, USCG and non-federal partners representing stakeholder groups and areas of expertise. Through collaboration with experts in related fields, the team develops practical resources for field providers, supervisors, administrators, medical directors and associations to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Primary Point of Contact: NHTSA Office of EMS, email@example.com, 202-366-5440