Posted by SCAFoundation on 05/09/2008

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happens to kids as well as adults. A simple device known as an automated external defibrillator (AED) can save lives, but only if it’s in the right place at the right time

We see it in the news nearly every day. A young student, frequently an athlete, dies suddenly from cardiac arrest. Soon after, the school system develops an AED program in memory of the student.

Why wait for a tragedy? Do schools in your community have AEDs? If they don’t the time to get them is now.

It’s not just the headlines about sudden death in young people that are causing an increased interest in school CPR-AED programs. People are beginning to recognize that sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States—and it can also affect children and adolescents. And they’re starting to understand that there is a treatment for it: the quick combination of CPR and defibrillation.

They recognize that advances in technology have made it possible for non-medical personnel to use AEDs with a minimum of training. Furthermore, changes in state and federal laws have not only strengthened liability protection for those associated with AED programs but also have provided funding to support such programs. These lifesaving devices can now be found in airports, malls, hotels, movie theaters, fitness centers and churches. The trend forces the question: Why not schools?

Fiscally speaking, times are tighter than ever before for schools nationwide, and it may seem like overkill to invest in a device that might never be used. But the tragic deaths of so many young people, coupled with the failure to provide the proven cure in a timely manner, make words like “priorities,” “budget constraints” and “unlikely event” fall on the deaf, wounded ears of loved ones left behind.

The value of school AED programs is not only about saving kids. Because school populations also include higher-risk middle-aged and elderly people such as teachers, parents, grandparents and visitors, and since schools typically serve as gathering sites for communities and places of refuge during crises, school AED programs make a lot of sense for adults.

For these reasons, we at the SCA Foundation urge schools to install AEDs as part of a comprehensive program that includes CPR-AED education for students and staff alike. And we applaud the efforts of parent groups and other advocates who seek to make school AED programs the norm, not the exception.

We hope to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and the need for resuscitation readiness in the school community. Whether you're a student, teacher, school board member, administrator, school nurse, coach, athletic trainer, parent or just someone who cares, we hope you will become a champion of rapid access to defibrillation in schools and at school events.

Most of all, we hope to help inspire the creation of a new generation of citizens who are ready, willing and able to intervene in sudden cardiac emergencies. We believe in today's youth, and we know they can make a difference.

Mary Newman
SCA Foundation

(Adapted from original editorial published in Saving Lives in Schools and reprinted in School Administrator, 2003)