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News > Flightline defibrillator installation gives jump start to saving lives
David Coody, owner of Coody Electric, which is installing all of the defibrillator wall cases in the flightline area, watches as Linda King, Commander’s Action Group executive program management support specialist, puts one of the new defibrillators in place in the hallway of Bldg. 125. U. S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp
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Flightline defibrillator installation gives jump start to saving lives

Posted 5/8/2009   Updated 5/13/2009 Email story   Print story


by Wayne Crenshaw
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

5/8/2009 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In one month last year, the 402nd Maintenance Wing lost two of its team members to heart attacks in the flightline area.

It's no surprise then, that many employees began asking why the flightline didn't have defibrillators. It was the most common comment posted on boards set up as part of the unit's Voluntary Protection Program seeking input on ways to improve health and safety.

If employees ever think their feedback doesn't matter, it does.

As a result of those suggestions, the wing this week began installing 85 automated external defibrillators around the flightline. By June, all are expected to be operational, and hundreds of personnel are already trained to use the life-saving devices. The total cost is estimated at $150,000.

"It's a small price to pay to save a life," said Linda King, executive program management support specialist in the Commander's Action Group. The group took on the task of getting the defibrillators eight months ago, she said, and while it was a tough road to get to this point, it will be well worth it.

Defibrillators are used in other locations around the base, and have been credited with saving two lives in the past year. Ms. King said defibrillators were not placed on the flightline previously because of its close proximity to the fire station. 

However, with the fire station being moved, there became an urgent need for debrillators to be placed throughout the flightline.  

Ms. King said a shock delivered at the four-minute mark increases the chance of survival by 60 percent over one delivered at the 10-minute mark. In other words, with every minute that passes, the chances of survival drops 10 percent, she said.

The defibrillators offer the opportunity to deliver a life-saving shock within four minutes of a heart attack occurring. The battery-powered devices are in a box mounted on walls, and when the box is opened a loud alarm goes off to alert any trained personnel to the emergency.

Even on the flightline, where workers are far away from buildings, the devices are placed in stationary trailers where technical information on the planes is kept. Also, the flightline production superintendent, who is usually the first person to arrive at almost any incident, will have one in his truck.

Approximately 700 of the 3,400 people who work in the flightline area are trained to use the defibrillators and do CPR. About 400 of those were already trained as a part of their jobs, which includes all military personnel and electricians, and another 300 volunteered for the training once word went out that the defibrillators were coming. Another 200 are waiting to get the training.

That means by the time all the devices are installed, nearly one in three workers in the flightline area will be able to use the devices.

One of those is Master Sgt. Darrin Landis, who said the devices are much needed. He was first trained to use a defibrillator four years ago, and he gets annual refresher courses. He has never had to use it but said he wouldn't hesitate if the need occurs.

"I feel very confident," he said. "It's about time they got them up here. It's very important."

Ms. King said the devices are "100-percent mistake proof." Once the pads are attached, the device begins monitoring the patient and it automatically detects whether a patient really is having a heart attack and needs a shock.

Users are also trained how to recognize whether a victim has a pacemaker, in which case a shock should not be administered. The device also has automated voice commands to help the user.

It also has a data card which records all of the patient's vitals and the actions taken. That can be examined later to determine exactly what happened, and it's useful information to doctors treating the patient, Ms. King said.

In addition to the two men who suffered heart attacks in the flightline area and died, five other 40 to 50-yeard old flightline employees have died of heart attacks at home in the past year, Ms. King said. She pointed that out because it illustrates the risk factor in the area, in which 70-percent of flightline employees fall into that age group-- the one at highest risk of having heart attacks.

Seeing a co-worker die on the job is a traumatic experience. Ms. King said a man who performed CPR on one of the heart-attack victims last year was so distraught after the patient died that he missed a week of work. The defibrillators, she hopes, might make that a little easier, even if the victim doesn't make it.

"This allows that person to know he did everything possible," she said.

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