Q: People often talk about “first responders” and how they are heroes. Are there second and third responders? Can they be heroes, too?
J.D., of Belleville
A: Although I’ve seldom heard them called such, yes, there are second and third responders, and, to my mind, anyone helping people whose lives have been devastated by an accident, fire or natural disaster can be considered a hero.
When disasters occur, there are three types of needs and three types of responders based on what is needed when, says Kyoko Jones, the president of Tomonokai, a not-for-profit Japanese organization that promotes international educational cooperation.
First responders carry out the immediate work of rescue and medical care. Second responders support the first responders by providing clothes, food, water and short-term shelter as well as working to restore utilities, road-clearing, crowd control, sanitation and social services such as trauma counseling. Some estimates say there may be three to 10 second responders for every first responder.
But after, say, a tornado or hurricane, it may take months for life to become normal again. There where the third responders come in —to assist in the rebuilding of people’s lives over the long haul.
“This is typically the point when things get emotionally tough,” Jones writes on her webpage, thirdresponders.org. “Third responders provide people in the affected communities with social support networks that enable them to rebuild and restructure their lives according to their needs and interests.”