Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association conference attendees gain insight from program that has trained more than 11,000 FAA employees
Jan 16, 2013 - Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in people under the age of 60. Most often its victims are in the prime of life with no previous history of heart health problems. It takes the lives of more people each year than Alzheimer’s, assault with firearms, breast cancer, prostate cancer, HIV, diabetes, house fires, motor vehicle accidents, and suicides combined. Moreover, despite dramatic advances in the medical science and technology of resuscitation, the survival rate from this critical electrical malfunction of the heart is appallingly low. The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (SCAA) is leading the national effort to create public awareness of SCA and broaden public access to and application of early defibrillation via automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
At the SCAA’s annual meeting in Florida in November, conference attendees learned from a federal agency that has made dramatic progress in creating and managing one of the largest and most successful Public Access Defibrillation programs in the United States. In a feature presentation, Dr. Tom Holloway of the Federal Aviation Administration discussed the FAA’s outstanding efforts in establishing an AED program across more than 175 air traffic towers, air route traffic control centers, research facilities, and administrative offices. In addition, Dr. Holloway discussed the FAA’s use of proven behavioral science in training over 11,000 employees to provide victims of SCA a second chance at life.
During the presentation, Dr. Odelia Braun, Medical Director of Emergency University (which is responsible for managing the FAA’s AED program), noted that one of the principal factors in the low cardiac arrest survival rate is the very low overall response rate nationwide. As Dr. Braun reminded conference attendees, CPR is rarely initiated by either trained or untrained family members, co-workers, or other bystanders at the time of an SCA event. Also, when an easy-to-use, potentially lifesaving AED is available, it is only used 25% of the time.
The presenters emphasized that the key to improving cardiac arrest survival rates is improving response rates. To accomplish this, the FAA has pioneered the integration of effective behavioral science into its Public Access Defibrillation program. The FAA charged Emergency University with developing a program that focuses on producing optimal clinical outcomes. Accordingly, EU has trained adequately equipped, properly prepared, medically directed, and effectively motivated onsite personnel who can and will deliver a planned, organized, and practiced SCA response when and if ever needed.
The FAA program’s success was epitomized by the actions of FAA Safety Inspectors Ron Noe and Ray Trevino last December in Dallas, Texas. On their way to attend an early morning meeting at an American Airlines training center, the inspectors encountered Captain Matt Taylor, a 30-year U.S. Air Force veteran and American Airlines pilot, who at that moment had just suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. With methodical precision, the two FAA employees (who had never before encountered an SCA event) performed CPR and applied an AED. The 51-year-old pilot recovered fully and quickly, returning home to his family just six days after his SCA and with no residual effects from his near-death experience.
At the time of his life-threatening event, Captain Taylor’s wife Dawn was six months pregnant. Recently, while holding his beautiful baby girl Stella, Matt said, “Had it not been for the actions of those guys, my daughter would have never have known what it was like to be held and loved by her dad."
At the SCAA conference, Dr. Holloway stressed that responding to an SCA event and helping to save a life require much more than hanging an AED on the wall, "certifying" a few volunteers, and receiving a monthly notice to check pads and batteries. Among other things, a successful SCA response takes: broad organizational commitment; each person understanding their responsibilities and being adequately prepared and equipped to fulfill those roles and duties; cultural change and behavioral influence; and time and money to implement and maintain a sustainable program.
Since 1999, Emergency University has been the world’s leading provider of blended and online CPR training, AED training, and First Aid training.