WASHINGTON — The sudden collapse of a professional football player during a nationally broadcast game Monday has placed renewed focus on the importance of having automated external defibrillators (AEDs) present at all sporting events.
On Monday, Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsed after initially getting up from a tackle attempt during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Millions of Americans, already watching the Monday Night Football broadcast of the National Football League game, soon observed emergency crews rush onto the field at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium.
Emergency medical technicians then conducted CPR on Hamlin, who was suffering from cardiac arrest, for 10 minutes while he was down on the field. They also used an automated external defibrillator [AED] to keep him alive.
Hamlin remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Automated external defibrillators deliver electric shocks to victims of ventricular fibrillation to restore the heart's rhythm to normal, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In the hours since Hamlin’s collapse, people across the country have praised the use of AEDs in emergency situations.
“Bystander CPR saves lives,” tweeted the American Heart Association [AHA] Monday night. “In the event of a cardiac emergency, Dial 9-1-1 and administer hands-only CPR along with an AED, if available.”
An AHA study showed in 2018 that survival from cardiac arrest doubled when a bystander stepped in to apply an automated external defibrillator (AED) before emergency responders arrived.
The issue hits close to home Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike. The Prince William County Democrat, who’s also served as a firefighter and EMT for 23 years, fought to pass a bill in the Virginia legislature, that would require every health club in the Commonwealth to have an AED.
McPike would ultimately get his bill signed into law after three years of effort.
“We all know it's a new year,” he said. “After New Years, we're trying to get back into fitness and probably haven't done it for quite a while. Sort of reengaging, restarting. Having that cardiac incident, we know that each minute that we don't get an AED engaged in someone in a cardiac arrest, we lose between seven and ten percent survivability.”
McPike added the impact an AED can make is undeniable.
“When I was 14, I was on the baseball field practicing with my teammates, and noticed this guy at the school running around the track with other folks,” McPike said. “And, the next time I checked, the guy was laying on the ground and there was someone standing over him. I ran off from baseball practice, and he had stopped breathing. So, I started CPR. My mom was actually a volunteer paramedic in Prince William County. So, she taught me CPR very early as a kid. I started CPR. Unfortunately, he didn't make it. But, I learned very early as a 14-year-old the importance of having an AED.”
Virginia’s state code says every local school board in the Commonwealth may develop a plan to allow for the placement, care, and use, and funding of an AED in every school. It also states that every school board should ensure that school buildings with an instructional and administrative staff of ten or more people must have at least three employees who have current certification or training in the use of an AED.
Schools with fewer than 10 instructional or administrative staff, must have at least two employees who are properly equipped to use an AED. However, there is no law on the books in Virginia that says AEDs are required to be in every school in the state.
Still, McPike says most education institutions in Northern Virginia are covered.
“It's not a full requirement that every school has it statewide in the code yet,” he said. “Although, in practice, we do see that across almost all of our school systems right now.”
In Maryland, every county school board is required to develop and implement a high school and middle school AED program. Under that same law, one AED must be present in every public high school and middle school. The same device must also be present at every school-sponsored athletic event.
Under the District of Columbia code, schools must establish procedures for responding to a medical emergency involving cardiac arrest, including the appropriate use of CPR and an AED.
The law also requires every school to have at least one AED on-site and all athletic coaches, athletic directors, game doctors, and school nurses are trained in how to use the device.
WUSA9 reached out to 16 different school districts in DC, Maryland, and Virginia to learn more about how they use AEDs.
Below, you can read responses from the spokespeople of 10 different school systems who responded to WUSA9’s request, as of 10 pm, Tuesday. WUSA9 will include more responses when they become available:
- Arlington Public Schools
There are portable AEDs at all high school athletic events with the athletic trainer and units installed close to all athletic facilities.
- Alexandria City Public Schools
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has AEDs in all facilities. These are located in common areas such as cafeterias and are brought to sporting facilities so that AEDs are available for all practices and games. At each of our home contests, our athletic trainers carry an AED with them. Additionally, the ACPS athletic department has five AEDs that are given to our teams whenever they are not on-site at one of our school locations. - ACPS Executive Director of Athletics and Student Activities James Parker
- Calvert County Public Schools
The use of AEDs is referenced in our Policy #3915 and Procedure #3915.1 to see the complete policy go to: https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1612293256/calvertnetk12mdus/fltc1m5vumqf7z0kv60r/3915.pdf and to see the complete procedure, go to: https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1628523588/calvertnetk12mdus/q38jhvccv3t0xlvtqocc/39151.pdf
Below is the section of the procedure that specifically speaks to location of AEDs:
IV. Location of AEDs
A. AEDs will be located, at a minimum, in each Calvert County public secondary school
B. The principal/designee will determine the location of AEDs in his/her building
C. The location of AEDs should provide optimal accessibility to individuals to operate them and allow staff members to retrieve the device outside of normal school hours if necessary
D. After school hours, an AED should be moved from its designated location by the Athletic Director or coach to support athletic department activities 1. The secondary school principal or designee will ensure that an individual trained in the operation and use of an AED is present at each home s school athletic event 2. If removed from its designated location, the AED must be signed out. Information regarding the responsible person, the time it was removed, the location to which it has been taken, and the estimated time it will be returned must be left in the designated location. (See Attachment 1 – AED Sign Out Sheet)
E. CCPS is not responsible for providing or insuring access to AEDs or AED services to organizations that use the school buildings after school hours.
Currently all CCPS schools are equipped with AEDs to include 4 at each High School and 1 at each Middle and Elementary School. Certified staff includes (but not limited to): Principals/Asst Principals, P.E. Teachers, Safety Advocates, Coaches, Nurses, and backups. AED Units are inspected weekly, and a record is maintained to ensure readiness. The location of the AED varies based on the school footprint.
Charles County Public Schools
Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) policy requires an AED in all middle and high schools (which include system practice facilities/locker rooms/sporting venues), and in some elementary schools and centers, where deemed medically necessary. High schools have up to five (5) devices (depending on student enrollment) which are provided for athletic directors/trainers, coaches, placed in school nurse offices and in other locations for easy access as required by state regulations. Policy requires school staff to complete AED monthly inspections and have a minimum of two (2) persons trained to be in AED use. CCPS also requires all high school athletic coaches to be both CPR and AED trained.
- Fairfax County Public Schools
Every FCPS building is equipped with multiple AEDs (around 689 units total). One is located directly adjacent to every one of our gyms.
All of our Athletic Trainers have portable units that they carry with them.
- Loudoun County Public Schools
I can advise that all LCPS schools and facilities have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that will aid in minimizing the time needed to provide an immediate response to a potentially life-threatening medical emergency. The EAP will outline the personnel and their responsibilities, emergency equipment (including AEDs), the chain of communication with contact information, transportation procedures, venue-specific directions, a designated emergency care facility, and documentation procedures.
- Montgomery County Public Schools
State and county legislation require MCPS to operate an AED program for all secondary schools and any facilities with MCPS-managed swimming pools.
Each high school with an athletics program is equipped with two AEDs in wall-mounted cabinets: one by the main gymnasium and one in proximity to the stadium field, generally in the ticket booth or the concession stand.
Additionally, portable AEDs are assigned to the athletic director for use at school athletic events and practices. Each middle school is equipped with two AEDs in wall-mounted cabinets: one by the main office and one by the main gymnasium. AEDs are located where most appropriate in other designated schools.
AEDs must continue to be available for use at all AED program schools when anyone at the school shows signs of sudden cardiac arrest. School athletic directors, athletic coordinators, intramural coordinators, coaches, school-based security staff, and additional designated staff receive American Heart Association (AHA) Heartsaver CPR/AED (for adult and children) training. Retraining is required every two years in accordance with AHA guidelines.
- Prince William County Public Schools
All schools have at least one AED in various locations. Athletic trainers have portable AEDs too.
- Washington County Public Schools
Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) has AEDs located outside of each gymnasium, and athletic trainers carry AEDs on them. In addition, there is an AED in press boxes at outdoor athletic venues.
WCPS worked with our staff to develop emergency action plans for all middle and high schools. These are evolving documents that will be reviewed and revised to make enhancements to the plans.
- St. Mary's County Public Schools
Consistent with HB836, which requires MS and HS to have an AED within a brief distance from athletic facilities, SMCPS has AEDs in place. In addition, SMCPS also has a portable AED with our trainers at all times.
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