Emergency Action Plan

Students participate in an AED training scenario

Ron Courson, ATC, PT, NREMT-I, is the associate athletic director for sports medicine at the University of Georgia (UGA) and a strong proponent for emergency action plans (EAPs) on college campuses that feature deployment of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). He and his colleagues developed one of the first higher-education AED programs in the U.S., a model that has become a template for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and has been emulated by countless colleges and universities nationwide. Following is an interview with the nationally acclaimed champion.

Why did you become involved in the cause to save lives threatened by sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

I was on an advisory board for an AED company in the early 1990s and helped develop protocols and educational materials. I had been personally involved in SCA incidents. In 1995, I was involved in a save with a Southeastern Conference (SEC) football official. In 1996, when I was serving on the medical staff with the Summer Olympic Games, I worked a cardiac arrest incident during opening ceremonies.

Most recently, in 2011, Al Schmidt, a track and field coach from Mississippi State, collapsed in SCA on the first day of the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Our track and field medical staff recognized what was happening right away and started CPR. We used the AED and were able to resuscitate him.

When did you first develop the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) at UGA?

In 1992, there was an incident in which a football player died from SCA. I believe that any time you have an adverse outcome, you should evaluate your program to determine if anything could have been done differently to affect the outcome. When I started working at UGA in 1995, I wanted to develop an AED program to have trained responders and equipment on site. We cover every athletic practice and competition at UGA with certified trainers. I met with Vince Dooley, our athletic director, to propose an AED program. As our local EMS average response time was 14 minutes, I felt that unless something was done, if we had another sudden cardiac arrest, we would have a death. By placing AEDs in the hands of our athletic training staff, we could cut our response time to two to three minutes. Our AED program was an easy sell. It just made sense. Everyone was on board.

Why is an EAP important?

It’s important not only to develop an EAP, but also to rehearse it regularly. The number one cause of litigation in college sports is the failure to have an EAP, or having one, but failing to mplement it properly. It’s important that everyone knows where emergency equipment is located and knows how to use it. Every August, we review the EAP. If we have an actual emergency, it’s not the first time we put the plan into action.

Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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