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How can the public help first responders during COVID-19?

While more than 90% of the country is under stay-at-home orders, there are still ways to support public safety members during this unprecedented national emergency


In this April 9, 2020 photo, pedestrians on an evening walk in Tacoma, Wash., stroll past a message written in sidewalk chalk thanking first responders serving the public during the coronavirus outbreak.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Traditionally, when you want to thank someone, what do you do? You seek them out, face-to-face, and offer a handshake or a hug. Perhaps the bakers among us might bring a homemade treat to show additional appreciation.

While these actions aren’t options during social distancing, there are other things you can do show your support for those on the frontline of this pandemic fight – firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, correctional officers and hospital workers.

Check out these ideas below and add your own in the comments.


Spurred on by the American Ambulance Association, the #StayHomeForUs social media campaign showcases first responders and healthcare workers holding up signs that say #StayHomeForUs, hoping to encourage the general public that during stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders they should do just that – stay home, remain healthy and don’t make unnecessary trips out.

It’s the easiest way to show those making the sacrifices that you care about their wellbeing.

Have food delivered to the station

Who doesn’t love a food delivery? While it may seem more heartfelt to personally cook something, right now, it’s really not safe. However, why not support a local business instead? Call your favorite and let them know you’d like to feed the local fire department or EMS agency; I guarantee they’ll be thrilled.

Don’t worry about ordering too much – it will all get eaten.

Stay informed/follow recommendations

As individual states start looking at ways they can safely start to reopen the economy, it’s important that all residents follow federal, state and local guidelines for doing so safely. A failure to do so puts first responders and hospital workers at risk and could cause a spike in cases.

Read the up-to-date guidelines on the CDC website, and follow your state governor and local leaders plans in regard to getting back to “normal.”

Write Congress for help/ask for funding

First responder organizations on capitol hill are working furiously to make sure their members are recognized and taken care of during this national crisis, but calling and imploring your elected officials to support the initiatives being put forth by those organizations is needed as well.

Call your representatives and encourage them to support the first responders who are sacrificing time away their family, as well as their health, to protect their communities.

Sew masks

New CDC guidelines encourage everyone to wear a mask when out in public to help prevent the spread of the disease, particularly in those that do not know they are sick. While a cloth mask won’t prevent someone from getting sick from airborne droplets, it can help keep their own germs to themselves.

First responders are even encouraged to wear cloth masks at the station, if they cannot fully social distance per CDC guidelines.

Call your local first responder organizations and ask if they are taking donations for masks. Check with local hospitals, nursing care facilities, grocery stores and other essential businesses. They could all use our help.

Donate blood

With blood drive events being canceled around the country due to COVID-19, the American Red Cross is perilously low and asking for donations from any individuals who are well and able to give. The Red Cross is asking people to wait to donate for 28 days after traveling to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy or South Korea, or have been diagnosed or been in contact with a suspected case of COVID-19.

In an emergency, first responders are there for the community members. It’s your turn to be there for them.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.