The concept of the AlbacMatTM arose due to fire evacuation training that Allison Backhouse attended as part of her employment at Vision Australia – Kelaston Nursing Home Ballarat. It was mentioned here how difficult it was to remove immobilised patients quickly. With facilities becoming carpeted, the method of removing patients by sliding them on their bedspread no longer worked due to the friction of the bedspread/sheet etc on the carpet. Allison left this training session with a vision that a single fitted bedsheet with a strip of vinyl under the middle would be perfect. Obviously, this was not quite the case as vinyl on carpet generates major friction, which passes onto burning to the patient! There was also hygiene issues with the vinyl on the bed fulltime, and of course, in instances where the patient may not be restricted to bed, but would still be in need of assistance to evacuate, the patient would need to be put back into bed before being able to use the fitted bed sheet.
After researching products in the following weeks to find something suitable for her facility, and not succeeding, Allison took the plunge at age 22 and left her full-time employment to work basically 24/7 on developing what was to become the AlbacMat. Finding the right material to do the job proved to be a major stumbling block, with some burning on the carpet and others not sliding as well as was required, and others not sliding on all surfaces required. Discussions with Work Care and an MFB fire training officer revealed the product did not have to be fire retardant or fire-proof due to the nature of the product – it was designed to get people out before the fire - not be pulled through fire. This research widened the material available significantly, however, the right one still proved elusive. After trying a dozen or so materials and making half a dozen prototypes the right material was finally sourced after Allison literally fell over it! The polypropylene board was slippery, while also providing insulation as Allison discovered after slipping on it!
Eight months later, in September 2003 the first order was supplied to Ballarat Health Services who were instrumental in assisting Allison with her testing and market feedback.
The design of the AlbacMat achieved Allison's first 'reaction' to what was required - easily used to enable the safe movement of a person who needed assistance. Totally independent of any other equipment, a person could move a 'patient' wherever they were to safety.
The name AlbacMat was created from a 'round table' discussion with her parents. Allison is often called Al, and with the nature of the product, all manner of names with evacuation, emergency, and of course back were put forward. With Allison's marketing background, she was also conscious of making it an easy name as her vision was to make the product as popular as 'kleenex' where the brand became the product! The name AlbacMat was casually mentioned and when everyone heard it - it was an automatic choice. It not only signifies Allison's name (Backhouse being her surname), but it allows an explanation of the product within the name - AlbacMat Rescue Mat.
Allison's cousin is a graphic designer and again, with a 'round table' approach, the logo had many different original offerings, but when sketches revealed almost accidentally how the product looks, Success!
The task was then to approach the market and with hard work, Allison took the AlbacMat personally to the marketplace. Visiting Nursing home and Aged Care facilities in the Western part of Victoria first, Allison slowly but surely showed the market her product was a real solution to their everyday problem of moving people in an emergency. The reach of the AlbacMat then slowly opened other markets to include Hospitals and Mining. This also brought about the Large size design and the extra features incorporated to make the AlbacMat more versatile in a range of outdoor environments. Further markets continued to open up including Emergency services and the funeral/mortuary industries. Now the AlbacMat is used in many different market sectors which is very exciting!
Although some things were able to come together relatively easily, others were difficult, and it is not without a lot of family and friends support that Allison was able to see her 'project' through to a saleable product.
Since 2002, Allison is justifiably proud of her achievements and is still excited with each demonstration she does! "I still love being at work every day. My day is varied and while there are many challenges in running your own business, the reward of providing a solution to people is very gratifying" says Allison.
Allison runs the business from her property on the western side of Melbourne in Victoria and enjoys her lifestyle of being outdoors and competing her horses.