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American Heart Association Publishes Policy Statement Advocating for Cardiac Emergency Response Plan

DALLAS, September 30, 2016 – Each year, approximately 7,000 children age 18 or younger experience cardiac arrest outside a hospital with survival rates of less than 10 percent. Immediate CPR can double or triple the chance of survival.

The American Heart Association – the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease – announced publication of a policy statement advocating for state laws requiring the implementation of cardiac emergency response plans (CERPs) in K-12 schools. The paper, published in the September issue of School Nurse, comes one year after AHA convened a group of stakeholders to develop tools to assist schools in developing CERPs.

Cardiac Emergency Response Planning for Schools: A Policy Statement provides a national model for K-12 schools to develop, implement, practice and evaluate a CERP, while addressing the legal aspects and critical nature of training and drills in bringing a CERP to fruition.

The statement recommends that all schools have a CERP in place that contains the following minimum, evidence-based core elements:

Establishing a cardiac emergency response team

Activating the team in response to a cardiac arrest

Implementing automated external defibrillator (AED) placement and routine maintenance within the school (similar to fire extinguisher protocols)

Disseminating the plan throughout the school campus

Maintaining ongoing staff training in CPR/AED use

Practicing using drills (akin to fire and lockdown drills)

Integrating local EMS with the plan

Ongoing and annual review and evaluation of the plan.

The AHA’s policy statement calls for state laws, regulations and related educational standards mandating these core CERP elements as well as appropriations to ensure that schools are able to fund these efforts. Currently, only four states, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and New Jersey, require a CERP in K-12 schools. Further, while 34 states require CPR training and hands-on practice as a high school graduation requirement, 15 states and the District of Columbia have no laws related to CPR, AEDs or CERPs in schools.

“A cardiac emergency response plan can increase cardiac arrest survival rates by 50 percent or more by enabling a trained lay-responder team to take action,” said Kathleen Rose, RN, AHA volunteer, former member of the National Association of School Nurses Board of Directors and co-chair of the working group that authored the paper.

Fellow co-chair Monica Martin Goble, MD, AHA volunteer and pediatric cardiologist at the University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, added, “Every minute counts in cardiac arrest. The safety of students, school staff and visitors will only be enhanced by school teams that feel empowered to administer lifesaving care until EMS arrives.”

Designed to be stand-alone guidelines or merged with a school’s existing medical emergency response plan, the CERP can be used by school personnel, healthcare providers, boards of education and school safety advocates to better prepare for cardiac arrest.

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