N.J. Governor Signs Law Requiring Defibrillators in Schools
Starting Sept. 1, 2014, all public and private K-12 schools in New Jersey must have automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) on site and in an unlocked location, under a law signed by Gov. Chris Christie.
The legislation, known as "Janet's Law," was passed unanimously by both the state Assembly and Senate this summer before being signed by Christie last month. It was named after Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old from Warren, N.J., who died in 2006 from sudden cardiac arrest after cheerleading practice.
Under the law, the AEDs must be stored "within reasonable proximity of the school athletic field or gymnasium, as applicable." Team coaches and athletic trainers must also be trained to use the AEDs in the case of an emergency, unless a state-certified first responder is on site at the time.
Besides requiring all schools to have AEDs on site, the law also requires schools to create emergency action plans (EAPs) for responding to sudden cardiac events. Schools must list in their EAPs at least five employees who are currently trained in the use of an AED. They also must specify which employee is responsible for which task in the case of a sudden cardiac event (e.g., calling 911, retrieving the AED, etc.).
"By signing Janet's Law, we hope to prevent other families from having to live through the shock and sorrow of unexpectedly losing a beloved child to an emergency cardiac situation," said Christie in a statement. "This law ensures that our schools will be prepared by having the appropriate equipment and that designated staff is properly trained to handle these sudden events before, during, and after school."
As best I can tell, when the law goes into effect in 2014, New Jersey will be the first state to require all K-12 schools to have AEDs on site. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, roughly a dozen other states have laws requiring some schools to have AEDs (mainly high schools with athletics), but none extends to every K-12 school statewide.
Christie is right to stress the training component of Janet's Law, based on what I heard last year at the National Athletic Trainers' Association third annual Youth Sports Safety Summit. One parent who spoke, Laura Friend, had a daughter who collapsed and died at a local water park three weeks before her 13th birthday.
Despite the park having two AEDs on site and plenty of lifeguards around, no one used an AED on her daughter. The park didn't have an emergency plan in place, according to Friend.
"It doesn't matter if they have the equipment, if they can't recognize the condition," she said.
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