New Tennessee Law Requires AEDs and AED Training for School Personnel
Tennessee state lawmakers recently passed legislation that requires automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all public high schools. It also encourages districts to equip middle and elementary schools with them as well. The new legislation, which is currently awaiting Governor Haslam’s signature, also provides funding for public high schools that are unable to afford the devices.
The bill was backed by Rhonda Harrill, an East Tennessee mother who lost her son in 2009 to cardiac arrhythmia. According to a segment that aired on Blount County’s 10News in 2016, Tanner, her athletic and active son, had told his basketball coach that he wasn’t feeling well and took a seat on the bench. Just moments later the 13-year-old suffered a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and collapsed.
Although Tanner’s coach immediately began CPR and a bystander quickly called 911, the young athlete was pronounced dead less than an hour after his collapse. Later, an autopsy revealed that he suffered from a condition called Long-QT syndrome, which can cause fast and chaotic heartbeats, fainting, seizures, and as in Tanner’s case, sudden death.
In the nine years that have passed since her son’s death, Tanner’s mother has been advocating for AED legislation. Last month, Knox News reported that Harrill “First fought for a bill to require AED placement in schools across the state, then for training and AED drills to keep teachers and older high school students trained up on the lifesaving devices. The new bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor to become law, provides funding for schools who cannot afford AEDs to purchase them.”
Many companies, including Cardio Partners and AED.com, offer affordable AED packages for schools, helping ensure that students, teachers, and community members are protected. These packages may include an AED, compliance management, a wall cabinet, AED pads, a rescue-ready kit, signage, and more. CPR and AED training courses are also available.
Why AEDs Are Important
Harrill believes an AED could have saved her son’s life.
“[I] had heard of AEDs, didn’t know if the school had one,” she said in the interview with 10News. “They did, but it was locked up in the office, and it was behind a mailbox where teachers get their mail. You would have never known it was there.”
Tennessee’s new law marks a huge step forward in school heart safety. The American Heart Association reports that 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States each year! Tragically, more than 7,000 youth under the age of 18 experience SCA annually (Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation). AEDs in schools can help save lives by restoring normal heart rhythms in individuals who have suffered a cardiac arrest.
While these automated devices are easy to use, annual AED training can increase user confidence and efficiency.
Furthermore, finding the best location for AED placement is critically important. Placing an AED in a highly visible and public location can mean the difference between life and death. Although Tanner’s school had an AED, it wasn’t located in the gym, where the likelihood of SCA is the highest. Not only that, but the device wasn’t even accessible to the general public.
When this bill is signed by Governor Haslam, Tennessee will join a growing number of states that have passed legislation that requires or recommends AEDs in schools. For more information about AED legislation, we encourage you to read our recent post, An Overview of State AED Laws and Recommendations.