first responder

[ furstri-spon-der ]
/ ˈfɜrst rɪˈspɒn dər /
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a person who is certified to provide medical care in emergencies before more highly trained medical personnel arrive on the scene: a firefighter trained as a first responder.


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Origin of first responder

First recorded in 1970–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does first responder mean?

A first responder is a real-life superhero. They’re someone whose job is to respond immediately (first) when there is an accident or emergency. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), paramedics, firefighters, and police officers are all considered first responders.

How is first responder pronounced?

[ furst ri-spon-der ]

Where does first responder come from?

The term first responder refers to people who respond first to an emergency or at the scene of an accident. When you call 9-1-1, first responders are often the people who show up. They can pull you out of a crushed car or administer life-saving procedures like CPR.

In 1966, the National Academy of Sciences released a study on the number of people who died or were injured in accidents because personnel weren’t adequately trained. As a result, in 1970 the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians was created to identify people who had received special training in life-saving procedures. These were the first official first responders, a term recorded by at least 1975.

Needless to say, being a first responder is an important job. They mostly deal with emergency medical issues, such as cardiac arrest, burns, and shootings, to name just a few. As such, first responders have to be prepared for just about any situation.

How is first responder used in real life?

First responders can be found in countries around the world. While the term was first used in the United States, today first responders can be found in dozens of countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and Israel.

Over time, the term first responder has come to refer to not just official EMTs but anyone in emergency services, including firefighters and police officers.

Technically, though, first responders deal with medical emergencies, while firefighters and cops are trained to deal with other kinds of emergencies.

Being a first responder isn’t without its perks—sometimes restaurants or other places offer discounts for first responders.

Let’s be honest, a free meal to say Thank You for regularly saving lives is the least we can do for them.

More examples of first responder:

“While many of us celebrate the holidays with our family, first responders continue to work to keep us safe. One paramedic in Madison said the save he and his team were able to perform on Christmas Eve makes the job worth it.”
—Caroline Peterson, WMTV, December 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use first responder in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for first responder

first responder

a person who is trained to provide basic life support in a medical emergency
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012