The tragic attacks of September 11, 2001 are commemorated each year in New York City, and wherever we are in the world, we all stop to remember almost 3000 lives lost that day.
This year, a new memorial is being dedicated, honouring the victims of the attacks and countless first responders who rushed to the scenes to help in any way they could.
Thousands of police, paramedics, firefighters, and volunteers are still affected by health issues as a direct result, and the Los Angeles (LA) Times reports that many have in fact lost their lives to these medical conditions, which include lung disease, cancer, and asthma – caused by all the hazardous particles that they inhaled while assisting.
Mental health is another big concern, as many first responders continue to suffer the after-effects of the trauma they experienced.
First Responders In The UK
We have seen for ourselves the bravery of first responders.
PC Keith Palmer made the ultimate sacrifice when he tried to stop the Westminster attacker earlier this year, and it has been widely reported that police and paramedics worked for hours following this attack and the Manchester Arena bombing. Responding officers put themselves at great risk to end the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, with at least four of those officers being injured.
We have noticed greater police presence in London over the summer and it’s extremely reassuring to know that they’re around. This is also the case throughout Europe, where numerous attacks have targeted police and military personnel.
One of the toughest jobs in the world
Being a first responder to any attack or accident is a risk in itself. As the LA Times points out, these responders often have very little information and don’t know exactly what they will be dealing with when they first arrive. They go in anyway.
Even when responders are aware of the dangers that exist, they seldom let that stop them. Countless rescue workers have put themselves at risk helping flood victims in Texas just over a week ago, and many are facing terrible hazards right now as Hurricane Irma rages.
Australia’s ABC News interviewed Royal Perth Hospital’s director of trauma regarding the health of first responders, in particular relating to Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall attack: “We always focus on treating the injured and the patient but as we know from other recent experiences, looking after respondents is also really important,” he said.
What Can We Do?
Honouring the sacrifices made by first responders is the first step, and we believe it’s also extremely important to show these responders respect in their everyday roles – not only when they’re responding to a crisis.
Following police/other authorities’ instructions – for example if they cordon off an area – is essential, and clearing the surrounding area helps with safety too. When there has been an accident or an attack, standing around and forming a crowd can block access by police or medical personnel, and can even make it easier for a suspect to avoid being seen or provide attackers with another target.
In our travel alerts, we frequently include advice to follow the instructions of local authorities – this can include avoiding potentially dangerous areas, staying indoors, or evacuating an area. In each case, they will be in the best position to make these calls, so following their instructions is your safest bet. Not following instructions, on the other hand, can hamper their efforts and can affect the safety of others.
Last, but certainly not least, a simple smile can make all the difference. We like to acknowledge when a police officer is standing out in the cold to keep watch over us on a Saturday night, or a firefighter passes by on their way to work, possibly putting themselves in danger a few times that day… It only takes a second but it’s a sign of respect and recognition that’s incredibly well-deserved.
About Safe Journey
Safe Journey is committed to providing affordable peace of mind, and as the UK’s first comprehensive terrorism travel insurance we enable travellers to top up any travel insurance policy with terrorism cover – including cancellation (disinclination to travel) if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks prior to departure.