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What your community needs to know about the ‘Until Help Arrives’ program

The program aims to teach bystanders how to keep victims with life-threatening injuries alive until EMS arrives


You never know when an emergency situation will occur and your help will be needed.


It’s impossible to know when someone will need your help.

You could be running errands and see someone suffering a cardiac arrest or you could be checking out at the grocery store and witness a person trip, fall and hit their leg on something sharp or you could also witness something far more traumatic.

When a gunman opened fire on 22,000 Las Vegas concert attendees from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino earlier this month, scores of first responders – both on and off duty – responded to the mass casualty incident. However, there were also everyday citizens helping victims run for cover, transporting wounded victims and tying tourniquets to stop major bleeding. Something as simple as First Care training, according to columnist and retired fire chief Rob Wylie, can empower citizens to transition from hapless bystanders to lifesavers.

The Las Vegas shooting, along with other large scale mass casualty incidents, drives home the importance of why everyone – not just first responders- should have the knowledge and ability to provide immediate care prior to the arrival of EMS. You never know – it may mean the difference between life and death for a patient.

And that’s where FEMA’s “Until Help Arrives” program comes in.

‘You are the help’

“Until Help Arrives” is a web-based training program developed to educate and prepare the public to provide lifesaving care should the need arise.

You are the help until help arrives” includes three training tools:

The program, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), encourages the public to take these five steps in the event of someone suffering a life-threatening injury:

  1. Call 9-1-1
  2. Protect the injured from harm
  3. Stop the bleeding by tying a tourniquet
  4. Position the injured so they can breathe
  5. Provide comfort

In addition to stopping the bleed, be sure to remain vigilant about knowing where public bleeding control kits are installed in your city or town. The kits, much like public access to an AED, contain gloves, gauze, tourniquets and other supplies in public places to help control life-threatening bleeding.

Emergency, disaster preparedness

In light of the recent catastrophic hurricanes, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created a video about the significance of making sure community members are prepared in case of an emergency or disaster.

That same emergency and disaster preparedness can be translated to empowering bystanders to initiate simple, lifesaving actions. For example, if a bystander knows ahead of time how to use a tourniquet, then they won’t miss a beat when and if the need arises.

It’s an EMS provider’s job to remain calm, cool and collected on an emergency scene. However, for an everyday citizen, this is usually not a part of their daily job description. It’s equally as important to use the “Until Help Arrives” program to teach bystanders how to provide comfort to injured patients and remain calm during potential chaos or destruction.

And that’s the aim of the hands-on instructor-led course for “Until Help Arrives.” The course outline includes these six topics:

  1. You make a difference: Participants learn about the critical role they play in the emergency medical response system. A discussion is included about why people act in an emergency, and they will learn about how their minds and bodies may respond under stress.
  2. Call 9-1-1: Participants learn how to communicate with a dispatcher.
  3. Stay safe: Participants learn how to assess life-threatening situations and how to move injured victims away from further harm.
  4. Stop the bleeding: Participants learn how to apply pressure and use a tourniquet.
  5. Position the injured: Participants learn proper positioning techniques, both for patients who are conscious and unconscious.
  6. Provide comfort: Participants learn about providing physical and emotional comfort.

The three-hour course will also provide participants with additional resources and training available to them.

Prepare at home

As previously mentioned, you never know when an emergency situation will occur and your help will be needed. FEMA encourages all participating and willing bystanders to:

  • Make a plan
  • Keep supplies at home, work and in your vehicles
  • Sign up for emergency alerts and warnings
  • Practice, practice, practice

If you’re unsure of which supplies to keep on hand, FEMA recommends having:

  • Emergency trauma dressings – 6-inch
  • S-rolled gauze
  • Tourniquet with instructions
  • Trauma shears
  • Gloves
  • Emergency blankets
  • Bags/containers to hold the equipment/supplies

If you’re an EMS provider, what do you think of the “Until Help Arrives” program and course? And, if you’re an everyday citizen, would you take the course?

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.