On any given weekday, the majority of American children are at school at the same time. Each day, school administrators face numerous operational responsibilities which include: instructional leadership, managing community expectations and the students’ safety. With increased visibility on sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), it is becoming more apparent that schools need to be prepared for a sudden cardiac arrest emergency.
The American Heart Association has reported over 6,300 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in individuals younger than 18 in 2013. Youths such as 7th grader Kylee Shae, who collapsed of a sudden cardiac arrest in the hallways of her school. Thanks to the preparedness of her school and its quick response, her story is one of survival. See her story here.
This poses the question: How do we prepare our schools for sudden cardiac arrest? And, how can we increase survivability in cases of sudden cardiac arrest?
With our nation’s children in school, it is vital that we prepare for the moments after an SCA and before emergency medical services arrive. The very best EMS can’t always reach an SCA victim within those moments, but bystanders, educators and administrators often can.
For this reason, every school should be equipped with a Cardiac Arrest Emergency Response Plan, or CERP, an AED, and the education necessary to save a life. To build a well-run Cardiac Emergency Response Plan, the American Heart Association has outlined the following steps:
1. Developing a Cardiac Emergency Response Team
a. The Cardiac Emergency Response Team should include individuals who have current CPR/AED certification: the school nurse, coaches, and others within the school. It should also include an administrator and office staff who can call 9-1-1 and direct EMS to the location of the SCA.
b. One of the members shall be designated as the Cardiac Emergency Response Team Coordinator, and include a succession plan to ensure constant ownership.
2. An Effective Communication System
a. Post the Cardiac Emergency Response Protocol in each classroom, cafeteria, restroom, health room, faculty break room and in all school offices, adjacent to each AED, adjacent to each school telephone, where athletic activities take place, at other strategic school campus locations, and attached to all portable AEDs.
b. The Cardiac Emergency Response Protocol should be distributed to all staff, health services, athletic directors and administrators at the start of each school year, with updates distributed as made.
c. Review and drills of the Cardiac Emergency Response throughout the school year.
3. Training of Anticipated Responders in CPR and AED Use
a. It is recommended that at a minimum, at least 10% of staff, 50% of coaches, and 50% of physical education staff should have current CPR/AED certification.
b. Training should be renewed at least every two years.
c. Training shall be provided by an instructor, who may be a school staff member, currently certified by a nationally-recognized organization to conform to current American Heart Association guidelines for teaching CPR and/or Emergency Cardiac Care (ECC).
4. Obtaining Access to an AED for Early Defibrillation & Necessary Equipment
a. The number of AEDs should be sufficient to enable the school staff or another person to retrieve an AED and deliver it to any location within the school building, ideally within 2 minutes of being notified of a possible cardiac emergency.
b. The number of AEDs, either stationary or in the possession of an on-site athletic trainer, coach, or other qualified person, should be sufficient to enable the delivery of an AED to any location outside of the school (on school grounds), including any athletic field, ideally within 2 minutes of being notified of a possible cardiac emergency.
c. Back-up AEDs – One or more AEDs should be held in reserve for use as a replacement for any AED which may be out-of-service for maintenance or other issues. The back-up AED(s) should also be available for use by the school’s athletic teams or other groups traveling to off-site locations.
d. Your school should regularly check and maintain each school-owned AED in accordance with the AED’s operating manual and maintain a log of the maintenance activity. The school shall designate a person who will be responsible for verifying equipment readiness and for maintaining maintenance activity (click here to learn more about how AED Superstore can help you ensure your AEDs are ready for a rescue).
e. Additional Resuscitation Equipment: A resuscitation kit will need to be connected to the AED carry case. The kit shall contain latex-free gloves, razor, scissors, towel, antiseptic wipes and a CPR barrier mask.
f. AEDs should not be locked in an office or stored in a location that is not easily and quickly accessible at all times.
g. AEDs should be readily accessible for use in responding to a cardiac emergency, during both school-day activities and after-school activities, in accordance with this Plan. Each AED should have one set of defibrillator electrode pads connected to the device and one spare set. All AEDs should have clear AED signage so as to be easily identified.
h. Locations of the AEDs are to be listed in the “Cardiac Emergency Response Team” attachment and in the “Protocol for Posting” attachment.
5. Coordinating and Integrating On-Site Responder and AED Programs with Local EMS
a. School should provide a copy of CERP to local emergency response and dispatch agencies (e.g., the 9-1-1 response system), which may include local police and fire departments and local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
b. The development and implementation of the Cardiac Emergency Response Plan should be coordinated with the local EMS Agency, campus safety officials, on-site first responders, administrators, athletic trainers, school nurses and other members of the school and/or community medical team.
6. Practicing and Reviewing the Response Plan*
Through public education and preparedness we can reduce the amount of lives lost from sudden cardiac arrest. Speak to your school or organization about adopting a Cardiac Emergency Response Plan today.
From questions when considering implementing your Cardiac Emergency Response Plan to the purchase and maintenance of your AED, AED Superstore is here as a personal, never automated resource. It is our job at AED Superstore to stay up to date on the latest information pertaining to sudden cardiac arrest, CPR, AEDs and public safety. Let us help answer your questions and equip your business, organization or school to save a life today! For any questions about your AED or program, call us at 1-800-544-0048.
Cardiac Emergency Response Program (CERP) has been created by the American Heart Association as a free resource for schools interested in providing safety from sudden cardiac arrest. In 2015, the AHA assembled a task force of members from more than 10 national health and safety organizations† to create a response plan based on science and best practices. To review and download the American Heart Association’s full CERP program and resources, click here.
*Drezner JA, Rao AL, Heistand J, et al. Effectiveness of emergency response planning for sudden cardiac arrest in United States high schools with automated external defibrillators. Circulation. 2009;120(6):518‐525. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.855890.
†The CERP Task Force member listing is at www.heart.org/CERP in the “Partner Organizations” document.