PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla., – Drip, drip, drip.
Sweat pours down the man’s face as he stares at the computer monitors in front of him. He is in an air conditioned office and knows the temperature couldn’t be higher than 71 degrees.
“Why am I sweating so much?” He thinks to himself.
He decides to grab a water bottle from the vending machine down the hall.
While walking he realizes he is short of breath and lightheaded. He brushes it off, gulps down a bottle of water, and gets back to work.
When his left arm shoots with pain, he realizes something is seriously wrong.
Knowing he is in trouble, he jumps out of his chair to find help. Seconds later a crushing pain overcomes his chest.
“Ahhh!” He screams, clutching his chest with all his might.
Hearing the scream, a coworker comes running to his office and finds him on the ground. Discovering he’s unconscious with no heartbeat, she runs to the hallway to grab an automated external defibrillator (AED), while fumbling with her phone to call 911.
She looks around. No one else is there to help.
“Call for help. Call for help,” the AED directs the user. “Please remove their shirt.”
She struggles to follow the AED’s instructions, while informing emergency services the situation and location over the phone.
Unfortunately, when emergency services arrive, the man is dead.
According to the American Heart Association, every year, approximately 475,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest.
An AED is used to analyze a patients’ heart rhythm and deliver an electrical shock to keep the heart beating at a normal rhythm while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
“The term, ‘golden hour,’ is used to signify the time you have from the heart attack to when you should be treated at a hospital,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Claude Summers, noncommissioned officer in charge of fire prevention at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida.
Summers said it is important to get a patient to the hospital as fast as possible and that every second counts.
Knowing how crucial speed is in emergency situations, William Goehl, assistant chief of emergency communications at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and PSFB, came up with the idea to add a locator function to an existing AED.
This new capability is embedded inside the cabinet where an AED is stored. A tether, attached to the device, when pulled, will alert emergency services to the location of the AED being used.
Conan Shannahan, fire alarm systems administrator at PSFB, said this design is the most efficient.
“By looping a cable around the handle, routine service and maintenance can be performed on the AED unit without setting off the alarm,” said Shannahan. “The only way the alarm is set off is for the AED to be forcefully removed from its enclosure, which is most likely only to occur during an emergency.”
Summers said the innovation will have many great benefits.
“The new system saves two to four minutes through dispatch and enables emergency services to arrive up to 70% faster,” said Summers.
Those helping a cardiac patient should still call 911 once pulling the AED out in order to confirm the location and situation with paramedics while they are on route.
“It cuts down the time it takes someone to get the AED onto the victim,” said Goehl. “It also takes the stress off the person applying the AED so that all attention can go to someone’s life.”
Once Goehl passed the project over to Summers, he took this innovative idea and its design to a place where new ideas are welcome, The Forge.
The Forge is a Spark Cell innovation program that allows Guardians and Airmen to submit and develop solutions to problems identified in their organizations.
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“Does anyone have any ideas they would like to share today?” The head of the The Forge blitz session announced.
Summers was the first one to share his idea.
“When thinking about the amount of retirees we have around base, there is a much higher risk of having emergency services respond to cardiac arrest situations,” said Summers. “We have come up with a solution.”
He explained the locator addition to the AED and the great benefits it could have.
“Every second counts when saving someone’s life,” Summers added.
The room filled with applause.
“As soon as Summers pitched this to us, we knew we would have to help him accomplish this innovation,” said 1st Lt. Kerry Kearschner, Delta innovation officer for the Forge at PSFB.
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According to Kearschner, the Forge team was impressed and humbled that Summers allowed them to assist in the progress of this innovation and wanted to get this project up and running using all resources they had available.
“The Forge assisted Summers with funding and acquiring the parts to assemble the AED alarm,” said Kearschner.
With funding and facilitation from the Forge, and help from John Pope, Chief of Fire Prevention at PSFB, Keefe Wilson, Pad Program Coordinator for Space Launch Delta 45, and Patrick Holland, superintendent of the industrial controls shop at PSFB, the team created the first prototype.
“This would have never happened without the Forge,” said Summers. “Their job is to facilitate ideas for the better and they are helping us reach true optimization.”
The project was submitted to the Air Force’s Spark Tank Competition, an annual, high-profile contest that celebrates Guardians and Airmen’s innovative ideas. It was highlighted as Spark Tanks’s “Just Do It” (JDI) project.
Rather than presenting these ideas to leadership for Spark Tank 2022 support, the Spark Tank team will work with Summers on next steps to push the project forward to completion.
With the “Just Do It” support and the prototype, the next step for this project is installation.
“The first installation will likely occur at the gym or commissary due to the high traffic and likelihood of incident,” said Shannahan.
The first AED locator is scheduled to be installed at PSFB in January 2022.
The Forge, Summers, and his team all played a role in getting this innovative project up and running.
“Taking consistent action in making changes for the better is our goal as armed service members,” said Summers. “That’s our mission.”