The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

Gov. Roy Cooper declares September First Responders Appreciation Month to honor safety workers

Hannah Jones and Henry Li, both EMTs for UNC, pose for a portrait in front of the Bell Tower on UNC's campus on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Buy Photos Hannah Jones and Henry Li, both EMTs for UNC, pose for a portrait in front of the Bell Tower on UNC's campus on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

On Sept. 9, Gov. Roy Cooper declared September as First Responders Appreciation Month to honor those who protect North Carolinians during emergencies.

The proclamation highlighted the importance of first responders as they aid and protect the communities in which they work. 

“I’m grateful for our first responders who act quickly in life-threatening situations to help people when they need it most,” Cooper said in the press release. 

Sarah Torzone, chief of UNC Campus Emergency Medical Services and a paramedic in Chatham County, said safety workers have gone largely unappreciated and the proclamation is a positive change in the right direction. 

“A lot of the work that first responders do is kind of behind the scenes or falls below people's consciousness,” Torzone said. “They know that first responders are there when they need them, but it's definitely nice to be recognized for the work that we're doing every day.” 

With various holidays dedicated to different sectors of first response workers, such as National EMS Week in May, the proclamation has created a unifying celebration for all safety workers, Torzone said. The month acts as a holistic commemoration of all first response workers and highlights how each of their jobs come together to help the community. 

N.C. Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, Granville and Person, said he appreciated Cooper's actions. 

He said he believes it's a great honor for the governor to recognize firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency operators, all of which were mentioned in the proclamation. 

“I hope what it does is shed some light on all of these first responders and it's just a small way of thanking them," Woodard said. 

Woodard said the significance of the month in association with the work of first responders is appreciated by many individuals, including himself. 

He said he also recognized the importance of using September as the month for first responder appreciation, especially because it includes history such as 9/11, where many responders gave their lives and survivors of the attack have suffered further health issues. 

In July 2018, the administrator of the World Trade Center Health Program released documents recognizing over 350 hazards that may have been present at the disaster areas on that day. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, responders, recovery workers and survivors were exposed to hazards that can cause short and long-term health conditions. 

These conditions include many types of cancers, mental and behavioral health conditions and musculoskeletal disorders. 

The Raleigh Chamber will host a First Responders Appreciation Breakfast to show their support for first response workers. The event will occur on Sept. 22 from 6:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. to celebrate the contributions of workers in Wake County.

Kathryn Yoakum, government affairs coordinator for the Raleigh Chamber, said she is in charge of producing and coordinating content for the event.

“We think it's important to cut out time and to show our gratitude for our first responders who take care of our community and for all the hard work they do for us,” Yoakum said.

Yoakum also emphasized that the proclamation is an official show of support for first responders, which is important for the community. She said that supporting them in unofficial ways, such as breakfast events and other infrastructure, is important as well. 

A First Responders Appreciation Breakfast was also held in Orange County on May 12, 2022. 

“I think that working together as a community to boost morale for first responders is critical as we think about staffing and think about improving and changing care for our community,” Yoakum said.

@mkpolicastro

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 


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