Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Gregory Koehle


Previous researchers have indicated that first responders are in an ever-changing environment, and unfortunately, the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among first responders is increasing. This study sought to better understand first responders' perceptions of emergency preparedness protocols and training, as well as the prevalence of PTSD. This study also examined first responders' thoughts, decision making processes, and protective actions information, communications necessary during situations of emergency preparedness for traumatic events, and how PTSD impacted this process. A sample of 16 first responders of various ages was recruited for the purpose of this study. The participants were made up of firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical services. This study drew from protection-motivation theory, the theory of planned behavior, sensemaking theory, and decision making theory. The researcher used a 15-question, semi-structured interview. Interpretive phenomenological analysis was used for qualitative analysis. The following themes emerged: (a) emergency preparedness is perceived as critical; (b) emergency preparedness is perceived as inadequate; (c) first responders are unlikely to seek treatment; (d) the development of psychological disorders is perceived as likely; (e) there can be hesitation or feelings of "freezing" during emergencies; (f) there can be numbness and distraction during emergencies; and (g) first responder training helps to make decision making automatic. Implications, suggestions for future research are discussed, and the need for additional studies in first responder training that consider the location of first-responders as well as the need for first responders' trainings to promote positive social change.