Simply acquiring an AED for your school is like buying a computer without software; the hardware can’t do the job alone. You’ll need a core response team trained in CPR/ AED use, including the school nurse, athletic coaches and other key employees. But the more staff and faculty learn these skills, the better.

The chance of surviving sudden cardiac arrest doubles or triples when a bystander immediately begins CPR, but unfortunately, even when they’re CPR-trained, some people are afraid to try. (For more information, visit: An SCA program that emphasizes practice drills and refresher training helps combat this natural anxiety.

“The important thing is to build a critical mass of people willing to take action not only in the schools, but also in the community,” says Joan Mellor of the Medtronic Foundation. That includes training students, though there are different opinions on when youngsters should learn CPR. “our impression is that ninth grade is the ‘sweet spot,’” Mellor adds. “It’s an age when students want to take it on, when they want to be empowered.” 

Others say that children are capable of learning at an even younger age. “Kids can learn CPR at 12,” says Brad Dykens, who works as a regional instructor trainer for the American Safety & Health Institute and as an instructor for the American Heart Association. (For more information, visit “Any younger and they’re not large enough to effectively deliver chest compressions.” He notes that mastering the technique is easy: “Everyone can learn to do 100 chest compressions per minute to a beat—I play the Bee gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ in my classes.” Most experts agree that AED training should wait until youngsters reach high school.

One thing you needn’t fret over is your choice of CPR training method—as long as it’s a nationally recognized course, such as one offered by the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or the American Safety & Health Institute, according to Debbie King. “It’s a good idea to pair up with your county’s EMS and hospitals and use whatever they’ve chosen,” she advises. “That way everyone is on the same page.” If your school uses the same program as your local EMS system and hospital, King adds, training materials can be shared, and relationships have already been established.

Training costs need to be part of the long-term budgeting for your SCA program. Some school districts are lucky enough to receive free training from their local EMS system. Others, like Fayette County, cut costs by using faculty members as trainers. Debbie King’s school system, for example, has 35 certified CPR/AED instructors— the ninth-grade health teachers.

National CPR-AED Training Organizations

American Heart Association:
American Red Cross:
American Safety and Health Institute:
Emergency Care and Safety Institute:
Medic First Aid International:
National Safety Council: