There has been an increased push to ensure that schools have automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, that are easily accessible. A recent CNN article notes that while the overall number of cardiac arrests has stayed largely consistent, school safety efforts — and cardiac arrest survival rates — have improved over the years. They note that Florida was the first state to enact laws requiring AEDs in schools in 1999, and there are now 20 states, along with the District of Columbia, with similar mandates, according to the American College of Cardiology. Even in most of the states with no requirement on the books, AEDs are available in the majority of schools.
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote in a recent article that in the past quarter-century, schools went from hardly having any AEDs to having a much better awareness about how they can save lives. He writes that speed matters when someone is suffering from cardiac arrest. The best estimates are that every minute without defibrillation reduces survival by up to 10%. This makes the point that just having an AED is not sufficient. It needs to be accessible and people need to know how to use it. Dr. Gupta writes that the American Heart Association recommends that defibrillators be placed within a two- to three-minute walk.
One small study of secondary public schools in Ohio and southeast Michigan found that in more than 70% of the 24 public schools surveyed, the devices simply couldn’t be reached in time. Another study of schools in Oregon found that people in just half of the schools surveyed could access the devices within four minutes of a field or arena. In Vermont, 81% of the state’s 74 schools had defibrillators near athletic fields or arenas; half of the time, the AEDs were kept in the main office, with the nurse or in the lobby.
Dr. Gupta notes that it is essential to make sure that the AEDs are always fully charged. Also, there need to be regular drills to ensure people know how to use them. But nationally just a handful of states require schools to practice cardiac emergency plans. You can and should ask about if your school’s staff have access to AEDs and know how to use them. Read Dr. Gupta’s entire article here.