FOX43 Focal Point: Heroes in Harm’s Way — The reward of being a first responder

YORK, Pa. -- For many first responders, it's more than just a job; it's a calling.

They put their mental health, their bodies, and their lives on the line to keep us safe.

It is a badge of honor, and some wear it for 5, 10, 20 plus years.

"EMS since 1997!" said Jerry Schramm, director of operations for Lancaster EMS.

Many first responders say they are willing to put their mental health, bodies, and lives on the line for a simple reason.

"I like well, obviously - the traditional answer is I like helping people," added Schramm. "I [also] enjoy working out in the streets, the adrenaline that comes."

"I enjoy helping people which is pretty much why everybody gets into this field," explained Joe Carr, a paramedic for Lancaster EMS.

Some first responders like Carr also appreciate what each day brings.

"I make a difference, and I like the fact that no two days are ever the same," explained Carr.

"You're coming in, you may do nothing one day. You may have training, house keeping. You may run 15 calls," explained Chief Chad Deardorff, York City Fire Service. "It's that excitement."

That excitement can bring long hours for first responders who potentially work 9-12 hour shifts or more.

Many times, they work back to back shifts on little to no sleep, but that's why some of them, like Carr, like it.

"We work a long stretch and then, we work a stretch off, and that to me, is very therapeutic, and it enables me to take a step back every other week," explained Carr.

Mentally and physically demanding, they care for people in the heat, snow, and rain.

Many describe it as a calling.

"The majority of people in the fire service - this is something they've always wanted to do. Whether it's family or living that childhood dream of, 'Oh! The big red fire truck!'" explained Deardorff. "For the most part, it's something that's either in your blood or you're exposed to it at an early age."

Deardorff became a junior firefighter at the young age of 12.

"I had family members in it, and honestly during that time frame, I was young; I could have went into a totally different path. It kept me out of trouble, and it didn't take me long to realize, once I got into it, this is what I wanted to do," he said.

Now, Deardorff's gear reads Chief, York City Fire Service.

"For me, personally, the whole job is rewarding. I love what I do. I don't get up in the morning, and say, 'I love the guys I work with. That, and just walking down the street, someone, 'Hey Chief!' Most people don't call you by your title except in military, paramilitary, and these are just civilians who know me from being on calls, knowing us for positive reasons. That's huge for us," explained Deardorff.

First responders: risking it all for the camaraderie, the rush, and the potential to make a huge difference.

Many EMS companies and fire departments are facing a shortage of volunteers and paid staff. Police departments are also constantly recruiting.

Some York County Police departments work together to recruit and hire.

Lancaster County Police departments also work together to recruit and hire.

Lancaster EMS and Susquehanna Valley EMS are also hiring.

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