TRENTON – A bill to require schools to have automated external defibrillators (AED) available during school hours and at school-sponsored athletic events was signed into law, according to state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale, who sponsored the legislation. The law is an attempt to reduce the number of students and youth athletes who die from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) – a condition where the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and stops pumping blood to the rest of the body, often without any visible symptoms.
“There are as many as 7,000 children who die in the U.S. each year from sudden cardiac arrest – many who could have been saved if an automated external defibrillator were available in their time of need,” said Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Since early defibrillation of a child going through sudden cardiac arrest is the most critical step in saving their life, it is vital that we have these devices on hand when they are most needed – during school hours and at sporting practices and events. This law will save New Jersey children’s lives.”
The law, A-1608, requires that both public and nonpublic kindergarten through twelfth grade schools have an AED available in an unlocked and labeled location on school property. The location must be within reasonable proximity of the athletic field or gym where school-sponsored events and team practices take place and an on-site coach or other staff member must be trained in CPR and in the use of an AED.
Additionally, the law requires that public school districts and nonpublic schools establish and implement an emergency action plan to respond to incidences of SCA. The plans must include detailed procedures for dealing with an incident of SCA and a list of at least five school employees, coaches or athletic trainers who hold certifications in CPR and the usage of an AED.
The law gives immunity from civil liability to school districts and their employees for use of an AED.
“Janet’s Law” was named for Janet Zilinski, an eleven-year-old Warren, New Jersey girl, who in 2006 went into sudden cardiac arrest during cheerleading practice. A nurse on site administered CPR and she was rushed to a nearby hospital where she eventually passed away.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, if a heart in sudden cardiac arrest is defibrillated within the first minute, there is a 90 percent chance that the patient will survive. Survival rates decrease 10 percent for every minute a person in SCA waits to be defibrillated.
The law was approved by the Senate in June.