Assembly Panel OKs Conaway, Johnson, Eustace & Gusciora Bill Requiring Defibrillators in More Public Venues

Legislation is Designed to Prevent More Cardiac Deaths after Success Witnessed with On-Site School Defibrillators

An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Gordon Johnson, Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora to help prevent sudden cardiac deaths by requiring defibrillators in many public venues.

“Individuals unfortunate enough to experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest desperately need the timely, life-saving application of an external defibrillator,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “As countless studies have shown, increasing the availability of these devices to those on the brink of death will save lives.”

The bill (A-3383) would require every place of public assembly in the state to maintain an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site.

“Since we started requiring schools to have defibrillators on-site, we’ve already seen a number of lives saved by these devices,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “This is an important next step to saving more lives.”

Under the bill, a “place of public assembly” is defined as an indoor or outdoor facility, building, or other site, which has the capacity to accommodate large public assemblies of at least 1,000 people at a time, including, but not limited to, a stadium, ballpark, gymnasium, race track, field house, arena, civic center, or other similar facility used for the conduct of sporting events; and any concert hall, recital hall, theater, indoor or outdoor amphitheater, or other auditorium space used for the presentation of musical renditions or concerts. However, a “place of public assembly” would not include any hall owned by a church, religious organization, grange, public association, or free library.

“In a study of 28 victims of sudden cardiac arrest at several public venues in Australia, 86 percent left the venue alive because they were treated at the scene with on-site defibrillators,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is proof positive of the benefit of on-site defibrillators.”

“Defibrillators are essentially akin to a fire extinguisher,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “They should be ever-present and readily available in the event of an emergency in order to prevent a tragedy.”

The bill would require the owner or operator of each place of public assembly, within one year after the bill’s effective date, to:
– acquire, and maintain on-site at least one AED, which is to remain accessible at all times when the place of public assembly is open for business;
– store and maintain the AED in a central, unlocked location that is known and accessible to employees, and which is within reasonable proximity to the audience seating area;
– ensure that the AED is tested and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s operational guidelines; and
– provide notification to the appropriate first aid, ambulance, or rescue squad, or other appropriate emergency medical services provider, regarding the acquisition of the AED, its type, and its location within the place of public assembly.

In accordance with existing law in this area, the bill would specify that a place of public assembly, its owner and operator, and its employees and volunteers will be immune from civil liability in association with the acquisition and use of an AED in accordance with the bill’s provisions. In addition, a place of public assembly, its owner and operator, and its employees and volunteers will be immune from civil or criminal liability resulting from the malfunctioning of an AED, if the AED has been maintained and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s operational guidelines, as required by the bill.

The Commissioner of Health would be required to adopt rules and regulations to implement the bill’s provisions, and the bill would expressly authorize the commissioner to establish more stringent AED requirements, either in relation to all places of public assembly, or in relation to certain places of public assembly with high audience capacities, if more stringent requirements regarding the number of AEDs or the number of certified on-site staff, are deemed thereby to be appropriate to facilitate the bill’s purposes.

Any person who violates the bill’s requirements would be liable to a civil penalty of not less than $250 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation, and not less than $1,000 for the third and each subsequent violation.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, chaired by Conaway.