The installation of two Automated External Defibrillators at the Education Center at Toftoy Hall is the result of Project Heartbeat, a CPR/AER training certification program for Aviation and Missile Command employees initiated by AMCOM LIFT team memb... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- It all started with the heartbeat of an idea.

While searching for a project that would benefit their fellow employees, a group of LIFT team members kept coming back to the same question: "What's better than trying to save a life?"

They had other ideas for projects that would improve the working environment for the Aviation and Missile Command's employees, but doing something that could potentially help save the life of a co-worker won out every time.

And that's how the program Project Heartbeat began. During the past few months, LIFT team members -- Robert Hearon of the Army Contracting Command-Redstone, Shannon Marion of AMCOM Logistics Center, Torri Johnson of the Space and Missile Defense Command's G-6, Beth Blankenship of AMCOM's G-6 and Dennis Granger of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center -- have worked with the AMCOM Safety Office to coordinate CPR/AED classes offered to AMCOM employees and taught by the Madison County Chapter of the American Red Cross. They will present their project to AMCOM leadership Nov. 17.

LIFT refers to AMCOM's Leader Investment for Tomorrow program. During the 11-month training program, participants are divided into teams charged with developing a project that will benefit Team Redstone, AMCOM and its employees.

"The project is a leadership development opportunity," Hearon said. "Members of our group had to brainstorm to come up with ideas, and then we had to choose an idea and develop our project around it."

During their brainstorming sessions, Blankenship brought up the idea of CPR/AED (cardiopulmonary resuscitation/automated external defibrillator) certification training and the placement of more AED stations on the Arsenal.

"I am a former volunteer firefighter and EMT in Limestone County," Blankenship said. "I started asking around where I work in building 5301 at the Sparkman Center to see who had been certified in CPR. I didn't get a lot of positive response, and that worried me. I saw an opportunity to use LIFT to get people certified."

Although the team thought of some other project opportunities, Blankenship's idea was something they all could support wholeheartedly.

"We had three ideas," Johnson said. "But we were all excited about this one. It just really connected with our passion to help people."

The LIFT team's goal with Project Heartbeat was to train and certify AMCOM employees to be ready, willing and able to perform lifesaving measures in an emergency situation using CPR and AED. The team gained sponsorship for Project Heartbeat from Pat Vittitow, chief of the AMCOM Safety Office, and they worked with Mike Davis of the AMCOM Safety Office, who coordinates the organization's CPR/AED program.

Some AEDs were installed at Redstone, including at the Sparkman Center, in 2009. The last time CPR/AED training has been offered on-post by AMCOM was 2011.

"The certifications last for two years, so those who had them from the 2011 training were expiring," Marion said.

The team focused their project on the employees at the Sparkman Center, where AMCOM is headquartered. The AMCOM Safety Office did have some funds available to pay for employee CPR/AED training and to install AEDs at Toftoy Hall.

"There's been a ripple effect to our program," Hearon said. "Now we also have two defibrillators at Toftoy Hall (where AMCOM's training center is co-located with the Garrison's Education Center). So, those are benefiting both AMCOM employees and other employees who use the Education Center."

To launch their CPR/AED certification training program the LIFT team developed and posted signage at the Sparkman Center promoting the training program. They also manned an information booth outside the Sparkman cafeteria Aug. 5-7.

The four-hour AED/CPR certification training course was offered during the week of Sept. 8-12 and Sept. 22-26. During that time, 88 employees were certified through the AMCOM program. Also, as part of the Project Heartbeat, 14 SMDC employees were certified in a separate class held at Fox Army Health Center during the summer. Combining those two numbers put the LIFT team above their goal of training 100 employees through Project Heartbeat.

"This is such an important program for our employees," Hearon said. "Since November 2013, there have been four cardiac arrests on Redstone. They happened in November, December, March and September. As our workforce ages, there will probably be more cardiac arrests in the workplace at Redstone."

The LIFT team got a lot of support from AMCOM employees. One employee signed up for the CPR/AED class because her husband was actually saved from a cardiac arrest from someone who knew CPR/AED. Another employee with a pacemaker convinced his friends to attend the class so that they would all know how to help a co-worker with a pacemaker if they happened to go into cardiac arrest.

While the project was focused on AMCOM employees, ACC-Redstone and other tenant organizations are looking at ways to provide the training to their employees.

"We hope this spreads across the Arsenal, and hopefully it will go Armywide and not just stay at Redstone," Blankenship said.

The classes offered by AMCOM were filled with employees from several different organizations. "We would like to see all the tenant organizations offer this training for their employees," Hearon said.

Even on the LIFT team, the experiences with CPR/AED training varied. While Hearon and Blankenship are certified, teammates Johnson and Marion chose to take the class so they, too, could be certified.

"I was nervous to do the class, but I had my buddy there to help me," Johnson said of teammate Marion. "Our team member Beth got us excited about this and brought the enthusiasm for this project to our team."

Knowing that Project Heartbeat project could help save a life means a lot to the LIFT team. But it is even more meaningful because coordinating the program taught them a lot about what it takes to gain support from fellow employees, and how to work together as a team toward a goal.

"We learned everyone's strengths and weaknesses on the team," Johnson said. "We learned who was good at PowerPoint and who was good at public speaking. We learned to rely on each other."

The group learned about Alabama's Good Samaritan Law and developed a draft standard operating procedure on which to base a continuing CPR/AED certification program for AMCOM.