The Issue

According to the American Heart Association, the incidence of EMS-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 326,200 with an average survival rate of 10.6% (American Heart Association Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2015 Update). Approximately 20 percent of a community is in its schools on any given day, including students, teachers, staff and family members. A focused effort on cardiac arrest preparedness in schools is critical to protecting our children and others in the school community.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, cutting off blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. SCA is fatal if not treated immediately. Having access to an AED can save the life of someone suffering a SCA during those critical first few minutes.

Early warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest risk could include:

  • Fainting or dizziness during or right after exercise
  • Excessive fatigue or shortness of breath with exercise
  • Chest pain or discomfort with exercise

Risk factors include:

  • Athletic activity: Two-thirds of the deaths occur during exercise or activity, making SCA the leading cause of death in young athletes.
  • Congenital heart disease or structural heart abnormalities.
  • Known abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Obesity and hypertension.
  • Exposure to drugs, medications, toxins and infectious agents, including cocaine, inhalants, recreational or club drugs, and some prescription medications.
  • Sudden blow to the chest directly over the heart.
  • Family history of heart problems, fainting spells, and/or sudden death before 50 years of age.

It is possible to have an SCA even if there are no known risk factors and no early warning signs.

Automated External Defribillator (AED)

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device which, when properly applied, automatically diagnoses potentially life-threatening heart rhythms including SCA. Modern AEDs are designed to be used by any motivated bystander, regardless of training. The devices advise the user about how to apply the device and whether or not to administer a shock. Some devices shock automatically if the victim has a fatal heart rhythm. Training is important, however, particularly since almost all victims also need CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to keep the blood circulating while the AED is being mobilized and to help establish a good heart beat after the AED is used. Most of the time, the AED will advise the user to administer CPR, depending on the needs of the victim, and in these cases it is quite helpful to have CPR training. AEDs have been used successfully by police, firefighters, flight attendants, security guards and lay rescuers.

Survival rates decrease by 10% with each minute of delayed defibrillation. The chain of survival is designed to minimize the time between arrest and defibrillation and increase survival.

There are five crucial links:

Early recognition of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

  • Collapsed and unresponsive
  • Gasping, gurgling, snorting, moaning or labored breathing
  • Seizure-like activity

Early Access to 911

  • Confirm unresponsiveness
  • Call 9-1-1 and follow emergency dispatcher’s instructions
  • Call any on-site emergency responders  

Early CPR

  • Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately

Early Defibrillation

  • Immediately retrieve and use an AED as soon as possible to restore the heart to its normal rhythm         

Early Advanced Care

  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders begin advanced life support and transfer to a hospital