Courtesy of: Adobe Stock via Robert Hainer


The Georgia General Assembly introduced House Bill 874, which could require defibrillators in all schools on January 12th. Its first summary reads as follows:

The Georgia General Assembly introduced House Bill 874, which could require defibrillators in all schools on January 12th. Its first summary reads as follows:

“A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Part 3 of Article 16 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to health, so as to require automated external defibrillators in all schools; to provide for definitions; to provide for the establishment of emergency action plans to address a person in cardiac arrest; to provide for internal response teams; to provide for practice drills; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.”

The bill is a revision of Code Section 20-2-775, which requires public high schools in the state with an interscholastic athletics program to have at least one functional automated external defibrillator (AED.) 

It aims to allocate funds from the Department of Education, saying “Subject to appropriations by the General Assembly, the Department of Education shall provide funds to local school systems to assist in the purchase of automated external defibrillators pursuant to this Code section.” 

Since 2019, Clayton County Public Schools officials said all schools have two AEDs, and Fulton County Schools have at least 270 AEDs, with at least one in every school and administrative building. Bartow, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Griffin-Spaulding, Gwinnett, and Marietta City Schools all confirmed to 11 Alive AEDs are present in all of the district’s schools.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a Defibrillator is a device that applies an electric charge or current to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. In the case of a heart stop due to cardiac arrest, a defibrillator may help it start again. The institute’s “Defibrillators” section reads, “Defibrillators can lower the risk of sudden death among people who have a known arrhythmia or a high risk of a life-threatening arrhythmia from causes such as genetic diseases, heart failure, or a prior cardiac arrest.”

Dr. Kristin Burns, a pediatric cardiologist from the (NHLBI) says the two tools people use to save a life in the case of cardiac arrest are Defribillators and CPR. 

“We should always use these tools together,” said Burns. “Many studies have shown that in your chance of saving a life, the best chance you have is within the first four minutes after an arrest happens. So every minute counts and everybody that’s nearby can be helpful in rescuing somebody.”

The AED, the defibrillator type listed on House Bill 874, is often located in boxes in public spaces. It has a sticker that can be placed on someone experiencing cardiac arrest attached to a computer that shows the person’s heart rhythm. It is important to make sure the AED is in a visible place. 

“The AED computer talks to you, so it’s designed to be as easy as possible for anybody to use.” said Burns “You don’t have to have medical training to use an AED. Because again, it’s those first four minutes that matter so it’s not likely that the medical personnel will be there. So it’s designed for everyday people to use to help save a life.”

It is hard to get the exact number of people who will need a defibrillator yearly in the United States, but Burns says the data estimates between 350,000 and 435,000 people every year will go into cardiac arrest. It is also more likely for teachers of children to need a defibrillator than their students.

“It’s much more common to have sudden cardiac arrest in adults than it is in children,” said Burns. “In adults, it’s between 800 and 1,500. So about one in 1,000, I would say adults have a cardiac arrest whereas one in anywhere from 8,000 to 100,000 children so it’s extremely rare in children.” 

Although an AED could prove to be a useful tool in schools, it’s essential to not focus too much on it alone. Dr. Burns says combining the use of it with gaining CPR knowledge and working with community organizations can help schools be prepared.  

“Putting an AED in a school is not just about the school children, it’s about the teachers,” said Burns. “It’s about the parents who are there for sporting events and picking up their children. It’s often you’re going to need to use it on an adult more often than a child. So any public place where people are gathering is a good place to have an AED. So schools are a great example of that.”

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