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Fourteen-year-old Abram Embrey, a ninth-grader at Liberty High School, puts a tourniquet on Technician Chuck Myers during the Department of Fire and Rescue Emergency Management’s class, “Until Help Arrives.” 

“The fate of the wounded lies in the hands of the ones who apply the first dressing.” Deputy County Administrator Katie Heritage used this quote to start off an Oct. 27 class called “Until Help Arrives.” 

The lesson of the four-hour course was clear: Someday that “one” could be you, so you might want to prepare for the possibility. 

I attended the class as an objective observer, a reporter … not involved, not concerned. But it soon became clear that no one gets to sit on the sidelines and take notes when an emergency slams into your world at 90 miles an hour.  

Just like everyone else, I learned the stages of “the survival arc.” How quickly a person mentally fights through “denial,” then “deliberation” and ends up at a “decisive moment” might determine whether they are a victim or a survivor.  

And I learned that if I managed to emerge intact from a car crash, a train wreck or a mass shooting, I’d want to know how to help those who were hurting.  

I can now envision myself putting a tourniquet on someone who is bleeding badly or packing a wound to save a gunshot victim. It wouldn’t be pretty, but I could do it. Heritage, Battalion Chief RJ Arft, Capt. Matt Shields and Technician II Chuck Myers showed me how. 

On a rudimentary level, we learned how to treat shock and clear an airway. And we learned that victims need understanding and reassurance maybe more than bandages.  

Along with 16 other participants, I learned how to react quickly to an active shooter situation, protect myself and others, and save lives in the immediate aftermath. 

Our teachers explained everything simply and clearly, making us feel that we could really do this if we had to. That confidence is the difference between a life-saver and a bystander. 

They told us we could be the first link in the chain. Before the ambulance ride to the emergency room, even before the EMTs came rushing in, we might be able to save a life long enough for them to go to work.  

They asked us to “be the help until help arrives,” and they appreciated our willingness to try. 

The Department of Fire and Rescue Emergency Management has offered two Until Help Arrives classes to the public so far. In addition, 27 classes have been presented to county employees, who are all required to attend. More than 400 employees have attended so far. 

Sara Makely, DFREM deputy coordinator said that she is working on scheduling a class once monthly in November, January and February, all at Fauquier Hospital. Once the dates and times are confirmed she will post the class opportunities on the DFREM Facebook page and website ( 

Makely said, “Currently we have nine employees (seven with DFREM and two with Fauquier County government) certified to teach the class.”  

Any church, business, community organization that would like to offer the class for their facility can call Makely at 540-422-8803, or complete the form at Anyone under 18 years old should be accompanied by an adult.  

Our recommendation: Take the class. Be a life-safer, not a bystander. 

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