Yes, They Can: Students Deliver First Aid on Inaugural Day

Like hundreds of other WJ students, senior Jay Berkholtz and junior Brian Starin got up at the crack of dawn on the morning of Jan. 20. They crowded on to a convoy of emergency vehicles that took them downtown to the D.C. Lottery building on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. where they sat in the freezing cold for hours. However, instead of sitting in lines and clawing his way to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama, Berkholtz and Starin went to the inauguration with a greater purpose in mind. They were there to provide vital first-aid if anything were to go wrong. By the end of the day, Berkholtz and Starin had administered aid for dozens of cases of frostbite, cuts and hypothermia.


The Montgomery County First Aid Unit (FAU) has had a long history of staffing the Presidential Inauguration, decades, in fact, according to Starin. The FAU’s website states that it is designed to introduce young adults to the Emergency Medical Services profession.

Upon becoming certified, members are permitted to staff events and provide first aid to those who become injured at an event. In this line of work, Berkholtz and Starin must constantly be ready to respond to any life-threatening situation.

“At the pre-inaugural event, a man went into cardiac arrest,” said Berkholtz. “I’m happy to say that we were able to save him.”

Though members of the FAU are certified to perform life-saving procedures, such as CPR, because many members are under 18, the FAU often acts in conjunction with professional Fire and Rescue services in real emergencies because of their expertise and their access to emergency transport vehicles.

According to Starin, the FAU is a part of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department and also a part of the greater Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services. As a division of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, the FAU is also involved in their emergency response plan for large-scale emergencies like natural disasters.

“For the smaller standbys we are the only medical personnel, but the way things work for the bigger standbys is that we are the first responders to an incident,” said Berkholtz. “Only when we get them to our tent can the more advanced medical personnel take care of the patient.”

The FAU is composed of people ages 14 to 21. Members must have completed eighth grade in order to qualify for membership. The FAU provides standby first-aid coverage for community and private events. In order to become certified, members must also endure a long period of real-world training and class instruction.

“Our training takes about four to five months to complete. You go to the firehouse on Sundays at 11 a.m. and take a class until 6 p.m.,” said Starin.

After the months of training, one receives certifications as a First Responder, to give AED/CPR, Oxygen Adminstration and to deal with blood-borne pathogens. Starin also notes that members have a sort of final examination before finally becoming an official member of the FAU.

“In order to be a member, after training is complete, your skills have to observed by an officer out in the field,” he said.

Though Starin and Berkholtz initially were attracted to the FAU for the SSL hours, being a member of a unit that gives back to the community has allowed both these students to broaden their horizons and start thinking about their futures.

“I want to become a law enforcement officer, and I figure that in that line of work first aid would be useful,” said Berkholtz. “I want to try to be able to help, more than just catching the bad guy. I want to be of greater use to people.”

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