This #NationalFirstRespondersDay, we spent some time with Ethan Muñoz, a 2017 graduate from the founding class of UA School for Emergency Management (UASEM) who is now an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with NYU Langone. Read on to find out about his path to being a first responder, and his advice for those who might want to follow in his footsteps:

How did you become interested in Emergency Management?

When it came time to pick my high school, my mom found a brand new school being advertised that was offering a whole different type of education - and that school was UASEM. My mom thought I should give it a try, so I signed up and ended up loving it. What really made me want to change my career aspirations was my Emergency Management teacher, Mr. Sal Puglisi. He was an EMT and first-responder on 9/11 and he told me so many stories about his work, about being first on the scene, and being the person who is running into a situation when everyone else is running out - I saw that as the truly noble thing to do. You’re there with purpose - to get people out of a situation they might not be able to do themselves.

How did UASEM prepare you for a career as a First Responder?

While other people I worked with were sometimes overwhelmed by the preparation courses, I had already done them in high school so that really benefited me. I also got to learn about important principles, like what to do in a Mass Casualty Incident. Sometimes mine is the first ambulance on scene, and skills like how to set up a staging area or how to communicate with the individuals on-scene to assess the situation were all things I learned at UASEM in a hands-on way, not just through videos.

Tell us about your current role - what’s an average day like?

I am an Emergency Medical Technician with NYU Langone. There isn’t actually a “typical” day, and that’s what I love about the work. Every day is different, and it depends on the location you’re working, demographics of the area, any holidays that might be going on - it really varies. I am so grateful for the variety. Even “slow days” are cool because I get the chance to talk to the members of my team, and share stories and experiences with those who are more senior. I love the busy days, too - I like to get down and dirty when the job calls for it and all the variety allows me to practice tons of different skills and keep them sharp. I love showing up for work everyday.

What is your favorite thing about being a first responder?

The main thing is really the chance to work in the streets of New York City. No other place does Emergency Medical Services like NYC and I really got to learn that firsthand from the observations of the many people who came from out-of-state to support us through COVID. I love how the job allows me to travel through the entire city, and meet different people. There is of course variety in the severity of situations we respond to, but when you respond to a call where your intervention actually saved someone’s life, that is so rewarding.

What advice would you give young people who are interested in being a first responder?

I have four main pieces of advice: have fun, stay humble, be nice, and be empathetic. Let me tell you why:

  • You have to have fun because if you let the job stress you out, you will experience burnout and lose the point of a job that can be incredibly rewarding.
  • You must stay humble and be willing to take in criticism and new information from those more senior than you. You must be open to correction and growth.
  • You’ve got to be nice - not only do you have an image as an EMT to upkeep, but it’s the right thing to do. Eyes are always on you and sometimes they are recording. Even if someone is upset with you, you must treat them well because there is almost always more to the story.
  • It goes a long way when you show empathy - not only does it make the job easier, but it makes you feel good inside.

Ethan has been an EMT with NYU Langone for the past two years and is continuing his schooling at Kingsborough Community College between shifts. We honor his service and commitment to the people of New York City.