Due to the fact that each year approximately 220,000 persons die from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), schools all over the United States are writing and enacting policies to increase SCA survival rate with strategies that will deliver defibrillation earlier than an EMS system.
In New Jersey, the bill ensuring that all public schools, which include any of the grades kindergarten through grade 12, make available an automated external defibrillator (AED) on school property is designated "Janet’s Law." This nomenclature is in memory of a student who died of SCA following a cheerleading practice in New Jersey.
Among the many stipulations within this bill, which will be put into effect September 2014:
- It will be required that someone certified in AED use be present at every athletic event, team practice and cheerleading practice or other such activities.
- This AED needs to be placed in a specified unlocked location within close proximity to an athletic field or gym.
- This AED needs to be maintained and tested according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
- An “Emergency Action Plan” needs to be written and implemented to respond to sudden cardiac events, including, but not limited to, those cardiac events which would make use of defibrillation.
- At least five school faculty members be certified in CPR and AED use. This list must be posted, updated as necessary, and made current yearly.
Although this does not seem overwhelming, as the School Nurse is usually deemed ‘the person’ to devise, write and implement all the standards of this “Janet’s Law” application in schools, it is of upmost importance that all considerations within each individual school be considered in the writing of such a plan. Considerations include: size of building and grounds; location of athletic fields; number of students and faculty members; site(s) for storage of the AED; coordination protocols with EMS; coordination of AED/CPR training; frequency of training; refresher courses; documentation of AED maintenance; accountability issues, and other aspects of the logistics of this new policy for all schools.
Having just spent many hours in response to this requirement from The New Jersey State Legislature, I suggest that committees be formed, within schools, to devise, write and implement this Emergency Response Plan. Members of different school functions should join together to best decide procedures are now mandated and everyone understands the seriousness of SCA and the importance in saving someone’s life. The building custodians, athletic coaches, administrators, local EMS staff, local health department and others can greatly affect the best plan to be devised and implemented. This new bill is very serious and its implementation in schools must not be taken lightly.
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About the author
Pamela Barnes, RN, CSN-NJ, M.Ed is the School Nurse and Health Educator at The Children’s Institute in Verona, NJ, and has over 18 years of school nursing experience.