Project ADAM, Heart-Safe Schools Designation

L to R: Adam Kelley (Manager, Corporate Communications and Marketing – Children’s of Alabama), Charles Smith (ACS Board President), Brenda Lindahl (ACS Nurse Administrator), John Stone (Manager, Community Action – Children’s of Alabama), and Dr. Cristen Herring (ACS Superintendent)

Each year, nationwide, thousands of school-age children die from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Only five to 10 percent survive without immediate treatment. 

That’s why it’s so important for schools to be equipped and trained to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which can increase the survival rate to 50 percent.

Auburn City Schools was recently named a “Heart-Safe School System” by Alabama LifeStart, a school safety program of Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. 

The designation means all 13 schools have incorporated AED emergency response drills and other safety measures into their school safety training.

ACS is the second school system in the state to receive a “Heart-Safe School System" designation. The other is Tuscaloosa City Schools.

The district received honors at Tuesday’s school board meeting. 

“We’re very proud to say that all 13 Auburn City Schools are now certified as ‘Heart Safe’ and trained (in) AED usage,” said John Stone, community action manager for Children’s of Alabama. “We have had saves in the state. Fortunately, we have not had an incident in Auburn City, but you are trained and ready to go if there is such an incident.”

Children’s of Alabama works in partnership with Project ADAM, a national nonprofit that helps schools and communities establish emergency plans that can be used if someone suffers a SCA. 

Project ADAM was founded in 1999 in memory of Adam Lemel, a 17-year-old high school student who died from a SCA while he was playing basketball. The school where he was playing didn’t have an AED.

Brenda Lindahl, nurse administrator for ACS, said Project ADAM made getting the “Heart-Safe School System” designation easy. 

The program has a checklist that outlines all the things schools have to do in order to receive a designation, as well as planning templates and a reference manual. 

“Project ADAM has it all there. It’s really not a hard project to do,” Lindahl said. “Just prioritizing and finding the time. And the conviction.”

Each school has a safety committee made up of administrators, faculty and staffers who perform a special area of care, such as principals, nurses, custodians, cafeteria workers and physical education teachers.

The safety committees came up with emergency plans specific to the layout of their particular school, and determined who would be responsible for what during a cardiac emergency, such as who will get the AED, who will call 911 and who will meet the ambulance when it arrives.

They also ran cardiac emergency response drills to test their emergency plan and communication. Such drills should be completed at least once a year.

“They offer a template, and each school safety committee filled in that template as to how they’re going to deal with it individually on each campus,” Lindahl said of Project ADAM. “It wasn’t really difficult to do.”

Each school has at least one AED. One of the things the district looked for when deciding how many AEDs would be needed on each campus were how quickly they could be reached and how accessible they were. The response time has to be less than 10 minutes.

“At the high school, it’s kind of a U-shape, and you’ve got three different buildings,” Lindahl said. “What do you do if the door’s locked?

“They have about seven (at the Junior High) and about five at the high school.”

Superintendent Cristen Herring commended Lindahl and Children’s of Alabama for their efforts, and said the safety of students and visitors is the district’s top priority.

“Your training and the provision of the AED is very important to us,” Herring said.

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