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Why The Access To AEDs Act, Championed by Damar Hamlin, is Such a Big Deal

Access to AEDs Act and Damar Hamlin

Last week, on March 29th, Florida representatives introduced the Access to AEDs Act, a bipartisan bill to help ensure that schools across all 50 states have access to the lifesaving tools to respond to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). When a person experiences SCA, their heart suddenly stops beating and they must receive a shock from an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED, to restore the heart to its normal rhythm. For every minute that a person is in SCA and is not defibrillated, their chances of survival decrease by 7-10%, making quick action with an AED essential to saving their life. 

The Access to AEDs Act would be groundbreaking since no comprehensive, streamlined legislation to prepare and protect schools and student athletes with AEDs exists today. Another key component of the proposed bill is its commitment to help fund AEDs in schools nationwide.

The Vital Role of AEDs in Schools

Currently, requirements for AEDs in schools vary by state, and according to research from the CDC, only 25 states have laws that support targeted AED placement in schools. These gaps leave students, staff and communities across at least half of the country more vulnerable to cardiac arrest and less protected than their peers in other places.  

In the United States, SCA is the leading cause of death both for school aged children and people over the age of 40. Despite the prevalence of SCA and the fact that 20% of the nation’s population can be found in school on any given day, swaths of the country still remain without emergency action plans which would help increase survival rates for SCA in schools. 

“There are so few instances in life where major problems have an easy solution. This is one of them. Anyone, young or old, can learn how to push on the chest of someone in cardiac arrest to keep them alive. Similarly, anyone, young or old, can turn on an automated external defibrillator, follow the prompts, and deliver a lifesaving shock if needed. When these two things are available, lives will be saved. Period.” 

Darren Sudman, Founder of Simon’s Heart and a parent who lost his child to SCA.

Although about half the states require AEDs in schools, budgetary constraints prevent many of the schools in these areas from actually buying AEDs and training their staff and students on how and when to use them. The Access to AEDs Act would help authorize AED purchasing grants for elementary, middle, and high schools that partner with a nonprofit health organization to establish a cardiac emergency action plan and CPR/AED training.

Similarly, the Avive solution and our LIFESaver Plan™, attempts to solve the cost problem by making an AED available for only $349/year, or less than a $1/day so schools across all districts can protect their communities. 

National Support for the Access to AEDs Act: The NCAA, NFL, and More

Earlier this year the world watched as Damar Hamlin, football safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed from SCA on national television. What the world also witnessed was a perfectly executed cardiac arrest response. Last week, Hamlin joined senators on Capitol Hill to share his support for the bill and why this piece of legislation is so important for children across the country. He upholds the belief that what happened to him on the field should not be an outcome reserved for professional athletes.

National sports leagues like the NCAA, MLB, NHL, and NFL have also announced their support for the bill and expressed a concerted effort to help increase SCA awareness. 

Damar Hamlin speaking in Washington, D.C. with his younger brothers, March 29th 2023. Image source.

“Sudden Cardiac Arrest happens to more than 7,000 kids under the age of 18 [every year]. For schools that have AEDs, their survival rates for the children from SCA is 7x higher. These efforts will help protect kids and reduce deaths in schools across the country.”

Damar Hamlin said in his statement.

Protecting Our Students

After the introduction of this bill, athletic trainers, school administrators, and lawmakers across the country have had to ask themselves–would their schools, their gyms, their homes be prepared to respond to a cardiac arrest? For highly trafficked community hubs like schools, universities, gyms, and athletic centers, we know it’s not a matter of if a SCA will occur, it’s a matter of when

At the risk of sounding dismaying, it is important to acknowledge that we live in a uniquely dangerous time for school employees and students across the country. Between the health risks of COVID-19, the prevalence of gun violence, and medical emergencies like SCA, it is important to do what we can to promote safety in our educational communities. 

If you have questions about what this bill could mean for your district or community or how Avive can help you bring a SCA solution to your school, please reach out to us.

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