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Liz Shares How to Run School AED Programs

Liz Shares How to Run School AED Programs

June 26, 2020 | Last Updated: July 16, 2021

How to create successful school and community defibrillator programs

Liz started working with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) back in 2003. Since then, she’s acquired a wealth of experience and knowledge about how to create and manage public access defibrillator programs successfully. One of her pro tips: promote CPR and AED awareness throughout the community! Watch Liz discuss her work. 



In this video you’ll learn…




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Liz (00:00):

My name’s Liz Lazar-Johnson. I’m the executive director of Via Heart Project. I started Via Heart Project in 2010 with the goal of getting AEDs into the schools and communities to save lives on the school campuses. Some of the smaller communities that couldn’t really figure out how to start public access to defibrillation programs on their own. So we work in a lot of counties in California, helping them get widespread AED programs within those counties and really trying to increase the survival rate within those counties. We work with different healthcare districts and hospitals and counties on the program. So for instance, we work with the Sequoia healthcare district in San Mateo County and they fund the program, get AEDs  in all the schools and a lot of the businesses and organizations within South San Mateo County. We’ve seen the survival rate within the county really increase over the last few years. They now have almost 400 AEDs within that county. And what we’re finding is now that the police cars have them, the schools have them, they’re in the community centers, they’re in places in the public and a lot of the community is being trained on CPR that it’s increasing our bystander response rate and it’s increasing the number of people that are saved from cardiac arrest. 

Liz (01:20):

I started working with AEDs back in 2003 down in Monterey County. I was hired by Salinas Valley Memorial hospital to help them with a public access defibrillation program. I started by donating AEDs to some of the schools and at first I did everything wrong. I would just ship a box to a school and pat myself on the back. Two years later I’d show up and sometimes the AEDs were still in the box, sometimes it was tossed in the cabinet and the principal’s office, the batteries were expired, the pads were expired, nobody knew where the AED was. And so over the years I learned the right way to implement the program in order to make sure the AED is available for you at any time in order to make sure that the supplies are there and it’s ready to go. Make sure it’s, following all the health and safety code regulations. So the school is not increasing their liability by having this AED there. So it was a lot of trial and error over the years, but we finally figured out how to implement it the correct way. And our program just kind of handles everything, it’s a white glove service for schools and communities. We now manage over 800 AEDs in schools just in California. 

Liz (02:30):

When I started working with AEDs back in 2003, nobody knew in AED was. The very few people I met who had survived cardiac arrest happened to be in an airport with a nurse standing next to an AED cabinet. They were extremely lucky and we worked a lot with the California state PTA on passing a resolution that would support having AEDs in their schools. And that really helped us increase awareness on the grassroots level in the state of California. Educational awareness is our top priority when it comes to doing a countywide program. Say we do a program in Napa County with the local hospital. We spent the first four years just increasing awareness in the community. That’s all we did. Education, awareness, sidewalk, CPR events, getting the word out, letting people know what an AED was. And we find that once people know what an AED is and has had like a 32nd explanation of it and can see it being used, it really only takes a minute, then all of a sudden they’re willing to use it in case of emergency. 

Liz (03:34):

Well, I’d say an AED, think of it like a fire extinguisher. It’s something you never want to have to use, but you’re really glad it’s there when you need it. An AED is something where we don’t want to wait for the ambulance to get there. To have the power in your hands to save a life in a matter of minutes or seconds is really what it’s a game changer. It’s really what’s going to increase our survival rate nationwide. Today’s AED industry is highly competitive and sometimes I feel like people are just selling widgets when in fact what we’re selling is the power to save lives. Different sales people tell their clients the other AEDs aren’t that great or don’t work when in fact I know somebody whose life has been saved by every single brand and model of AED out there. 

Liz (04:23):

AEDs are still very expensive. So a lot of schools do have problems getting them. It’s hard to justify the cost, especially because schools don’t just want one AED. A lot of high schools we work with have nine or 10 to AEDs in order to get complete coverage. These schools are huge. So that can be very expensive. One of the things that’s also difficult is the maintenance cost. Batteries and pads are something that someone who’s selling an AED doesn’t necessarily disclose up front how expensive that is. In some cases, in 10 years the cost to maintain the AED and replace the pads can cost as much as the original device. So it’d be really great if we could figure out a way to make them more affordable and to make maintenance cost less. The thing I hear more often than not when our AEDs are used is that people can’t believe it actually works. It’s not just a big that’s for fun, or if they can’t believe it actually worked. And then they witnessed someone being shocked by an AED and then literally coming back to life for them. It’s very profound.