Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in exercising athletes. Every facility, school, and club that sponsors athletic and fitness activities must be prepared to respond to these emergencies.
While having an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is great, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a simple and comprehensive way to make sure that your organization and personnel are prepared to respond to SCA and use a life-saving defibrillator. Simply put, EAPs are written policies and procedures that ensure quick and effective response to cardiac arrest emergencies
Leaders in sports cardiology from the University of Washington Stadium Sports Medicine Center have developed guidelines for designing and implementing an EAP. While the particular details of an EAP may vary between organizations, these 8 essential elements are important to incorporate into any EAP. This guide will provide an overview of designing and implementing an Emergency Action Plan while also discussing some organization-specific considerations.
1. EAP Coordinator
For every club, gym, or organization that is designing and implementing an EAP, one individual should be responsible for managing the program. This individual might be an administrator, athletic trainer, facility manager, league employee, or gym owner. Whoever it is, they are tasked with facilitating training, practice, and compliance with the EAP.
2. Immediate AED Access
Seconds matter when it comes to Sudden Cardiac Arrest! In fact, every minute that a victim of SCA does not receive a defibrillation shock from an Automated External Defibrillator, their chances of survival decrease by 7-10%. Therefore, AEDs need to be easily visible and immediately accessible in athletic facilities and venues in order to respond to SCA. AEDs should never be placed in a locked cabinet, obscure closet, or other location that would delay retrieval in the event of an emergency. Because time is of the essence, AEDs should be placed within a 2-minute round trip of all athletic venues, fields, and training rooms within a facility.
3. Personnel Training
Potential first responders to Sudden Cardiac Arrest must be trained in recognizing Sudden Cardiac Arrest, performing CPR and using an AED. Depending on the organization, these individuals may include staff, trainers, coaches, and captains. Ideally, it should include everyone involved. Widespread Call-Push-Shock education is also recommended! Call-Push-Shock is a simple yet powerful movement that seeks to empower people to recognize and respond to SCA by calling 911, performing Hands-Only CPR, and using an AED to restart the heart. Learn how you can save a life from Sudden Cardiac Arrest with Call-Push-Shock.
4. Venue-Specific EAP
Each venue should have its own EAP with a layout of the facility and directions to provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Key information such as the facility address and personnel contact information should be printed and readily visible. Every venue will have site-specific considerations. For example, there might be a gate or parking barriers that need to be opened or removed for EMS to access the sporting field. The EAP should consider all relevant complicating factors in developing a response plan.
Some atypical venues, such as long distance races, present unique challenges for creating an EAP. The plan should consider the unique nature of an event or facility in creating protocols for response. For example, mobile rescuers on bicycles trained to recognize SCA and equipped with AEDs have been shown to improve survival during marathons.
The EAP should include protocols for on-site responders to communicate with EMS. These protocols should be written and also practiced so that the relevant club, team, gym or organization personnel are ready to communicate effectively and efficiently in the event of an emergency.
6. Review and Rehearsal
An EAP is arguably useless if it is not practiced! The plan should be reviewed and rehearsed at least once annually so that all personnel are ready to respond to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. New staff members should all be familiarized and trained with the EAP as well.
Pro tip: During new member orientation tours, show them the location of your AEDs and what to do in an emergency
7. Medical Timeout
There’s no better way to rehearse an EAP than incorporating practice into regular meetings and activities. For example, a “medical timeout” at the beginning of a sporting event allows all potential responders – coaches, athletic trainers, etc. – to review the EAP and designate responder roles if an emergency were to occur in that specific environment. Other organizations, such as a gym or health club, can briefly but effectively incorporate EAP review into regular staff meetings. This seamless review and rehearsal helps ensure preparedness in responding to Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
AED machines must be regularly maintained according to manufacturer guidelines to ensure they are ready for emergency use. Maintenance includes readiness checks at least every month and replacement of critical parts, such as batteries and electrode pads, before or when they expire.