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February 2024: State AED Legislation & the Future of SCA Prevention

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In recent years, states across the country have made efforts to improve Sudden Cardiac Arrest prevention and response through passing new legislation. Many state laws have undergone shifts to enhance the accessibility and availability of Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs. While no federal legislation exists to mandate AEDs in places like schools or athletic facilities, many states have taken matters into their own hands to ensure the safety of their academic and athletic communities. 

AEDs restore a person’s heartbeat when they are experiencing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), an electrical malfunction where the heart unexpectedly stops beating and pumping blood throughout the body. A person in SCA will die within minutes if they do not receive a shock from an AED quickly enough. 

Several states, like Arizona and Washington, have passed new legislation aimed at improving AED accessibility and implementing SCA prevention plans in the places where they’re needed most. These legislative changes underscore a growing recognition of the critical role AEDs play in saving lives during cardiac emergencies as well as a greater commitment to SCA prevention and preparedness.

Get a brief overview of 2024’s new and proposed cardiac arrest prevention legislation and explore their implications for AED requirements below. 

Washington SB5592: AEDs in Gyms

Fitness centers and athletic facilities in the state of Washington are required to have AEDs on the premises by June of 2024 to comply with the latest SB5592. Gyms and fitness centers across the country have been working to create a standard of care for AEDs by increasing their commonplace presence in athletic facilities. Washington’s SB5592 continues this momentum. 

Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin and USC basketball player Bronny James’ public SCA events in 2023 have shed light on the fact that cardiac arrest happens to even the most athletic of people. In fact, athletes present an up to 3x higher risk of SCA when compared to non-athletes. Both of these athletes were saved by AEDs, which has helped to raise awareness for the importance of defibrillators in athletic settings. 

Washington joins states like New York and California that also require AEDs in gyms and athletic facilities. 

Arizona SB1259: School Cardiac Emergency Response Plans

Arizona is looking to pass SB1259, a bill that would require the development of cardiac emergency response plans in all schools. Studies show that 1 in every 25 US high schools can expect a cardiac event on campus each year. Given the frequency of cardiac arrest in schools, and the time-sensitive nature of the emergency, comprehensive cardiac emergency response plans must include AED programs. 

While all high schools in the state of Arizona are required to teach their student’s CPR, there is no current legislative requirement for AEDs on campus or sporting events. SB1259 would be a step in the right direction so that schools, in developing an emergency response plan for SCA, would realize the need for high-impact AED placement. 

Supporter of SB1259 and Arizona advocacy chair for the American Heart Association Victoria Stinson, wrote, “The response plan is simple, but it’s really a part of practicing it too, so that the teachers know the response plan and the students are aware of it. That way everyone can work together and it becomes second nature.”

South Carolina: Smart Heart Act & T-CPR Training 

Two pieces of legislation related to SCA prevention and care were introduced to South Carolina’s general assembly this year which would bolster cardiac arrest prevention plans in schools and training for the state’s 911 telecommunicators. 

The Smart Heart Act would require all schools and athletic venues to develop specific cardiac arrest response and prevention plans. These cardiac emergency response plans consider CPR and AED training for staff, strategic, high-impact placement of AEDs, and practice drills to test school-wide preparedness. While high schools in South Carolina are already required to have AEDs on the premises, some argue that the lack of required SCA response plans makes defibrillators less impactful than they could and should be. 

state AED laws

The second proposed piece of legislation, the T-CPR Training Law, would require all 911 telecommunicators to receive training for how to deliver CPR instructions over the phone. While more training may seem administrative, it is truly lifesaving. This new law would mean that whenever someone calls 911 for a cardiac arrest emergency, the telecommunicator who answers the phone would be trained to deliver high-quality instructions for CPR. With this new training, the 911 telecommunicator would be able to coach the caller through how to give lifesaving care to the person until medical help arrives. 

If passed, South Carolina would be joining states like Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia that require T-CPR training. 

Kentucky HB22: Removing Medical Oversight

For the last few years, Kentucky has made it a state-wide requirement that public and private schools of all levels have AEDs on the premises to protect against cardiac arrest. 

However, the state has another (and much older) piece of legislation which lawmakers argue serves as a barrier to entry for procuring and placing AEDs in the community. The existing legislation requires AEDs be overseen by medical doctors, which can increase the management cost for AEDs by several thousands of dollars for the organizations who purchase them. 

Kentucky lawmakers and supporters of House Bill 22 are looking to amend the law and remove the medical oversight piece, ideally making AEDs more accessible and affordable for organizations that need to purchase them.

Conclusion

While it’s not a comprehensive solution to preventing cardiac death, legislative efforts often serve as a good starting place for enacting any kind of change. As we step into 2024, progress is already being made to create new laws to prevent and prepare for cardiac arrest. In the absence of federal legislation, it really is up to the individual states to put laws into practice that safeguard communities against SCA.

Through proactive legislation and collective efforts on community and state levels, we can spur real change to save more lives and build healthier, more resilient communities for the future.

Have questions about the AED legislation in your state?

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