Vargas: What does Christmas Day look like for first responders


While most of us will be celebrating Christmas Day with our families, thousands of first responders across the country will be working. Police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, and medical personnel will be there to respond to our calls for service.

What does Christmas Day look like for them? Well, usually the day starts out slow. The morning traffic is light and then increases as the day moves on. Families on the road gathering for holiday festivities make up the majority of the traffic.

The rest of the day will get busy. If they’re lucky, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, officers may get to FaceTime to watch their children open gifts.

But the day does get busier.

So, what kind of calls keep first responders busy on Christmas Day? Here is just a partial list.

Family disputes

This is probably the No. 1 call police officers will respond to on Christmas Day. It’s also the one everyone hates. In almost every case, there is an audience of children.

Family tensions are strained during the holidays. Add to the mix a healthy dose of alcohol and the tension can explode.

If domestic violence is involved, someone will go to jail. Imagine a room full of children watching mom or dad being arrested on Christmas Day. It’s a memory that will last a lifetime.

Traffic Accidents

People are in a hurry and they get impatient. In their hurriedness, a driver’s inattention will result in accidents. Police officers, paramedics, and tow truck drivers will have to respond. A day of celebration and family fun can be ruined because of a momentary distraction.

Slow down, pay attention to the road, and get there in one piece.


Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean the thieving and robbing will stop. Burglars and robbers will still be out there seeking opportunistic prey. Granted, there are not as many burglaries and robberies on Christmas, but they do still happen and can ruin your Christmas Day.

Drinking and Driving

Alcohol will be involved in many of the calls for service on Christmas Day. After a day of imbibing and poor judgement, some people will get behind the wheel of a car. There are no breaks on Christmas Day. If you are driving under the influence, you will get arrested.

Regrettably, traffic accidents will happen because someone chose to drink and drive.  People will be injured. In some cases, people will die.


It seems that every Christmas there is a house fire of some sort. Think about it: the unwatered Christmas tree is just a matchstick waiting to be lit. Add to that the leftover debris from opened gifts, and homes become an inferno waiting to happen. Firefighters and police officers will respond quickly, but in some cases not quick enough. I’ve seen more than one distraught family whose Christmas has been ruined by a fire.

Gang Activity

Gang activity doesn’t seem to take much of a break. Knowing other gang members on your “get even” list will be home for Christmas creates a target-rich environment for those seeking revenge of some sort. This means drive-by shootings will still happen.

For every agency, the level of activity will be hit and miss. Some first responders will have a nice relaxed day. Some will spend the shift chasing one call after another. Still others will be called out from home if there is a major crime or incident of any kind.

For the rest of us at home enjoying our day, we should be thankful for all of those people who are only a 911 call away to help if we need it any day of the year.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at