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Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt requiring every public school district to provide and maintain an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site at each school complex was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

“This is a simple move that can potentially save lives, especially when we’ve seen a number of tragic deaths among student athletes in recent years,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “Because of recent technological advances, portable automated external defibrillators have become an important, live-saving medical tool. With broad deployment of AEDs among trained responders, as many as 50,000 deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest can be prevented each year.”

Each year, more than 250,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. According to medical experts, the key to survival is timely initiation of a “chain of survival”, including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Trained non-medical personnel can use these simplified electronic machines to treat a person in cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association notes that at least 20,000 lives could be saved annually by prompt use of AEDs.

Lampitt noted that at least 16 other states require or encourage schools to have portable defibrillators on hand.

Under the bill’s (A-1036) provisions, the board of education of the district would determine what constitutes a school complex which could be a single public school building or a group of public school buildings. The district would make its determination based upon the grade levels of the district, distance between buildings, and the type of communication system in place in the district.

The bill also requires the school district to arrange for training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator for school nurses and any other staff members the district may designate. The district must ensure the presence of a staff person who is certified in the operation and use of an automated external defibrillator for any school-sponsored or school approved curricular or extra-curricular event or activity which occurs at the school complex.

Additionally, the bill provides immunity from civil liability for a public school district and its employees in accordance with current law on the use of defibrillators.

The measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.