The Importance of AEDs in Schools

With the possibility of schools reopening amidst the COVID-19 epidemic, there has been a lot of focus on safety in our schools. But this isn’t a new issue. Schools should be safe spaces where parents don’t need to worry about their children’s wellbeing. With trained nurses, in addition to teachers and staff in CPR training online, schools are more focused than ever on health and safety concerns, but there’s always more work to be done. One additional measure to make our children safer is by placing AEDs in our schools. 

Cardiac arrest, even among school-aged children, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest—every year. What makes this even more critical of an issue is that most cardiac arrest episodes (around 75 percent) occur outside of a hospital, often far from any trained doctors or nurses. Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, including schools, so it’s critical that bystanders have the tools they need to possibly save a life.

But what is an AED? What can they do and why is it so important to have them in our schools? These small medical devices are simple to use, cost-effective, and can make the difference between life and death when someone is experience cardiac arrest. Already, AEDs are found in many public places and we need to continue making these medical devices more accessible to combat the shockingly high number of cardiac arrest deaths that occur every single year. A school is a place to learn, to grow, to feel safe. Installing AEDs is a simple way to make these spaces even safer. Here, we take a look at what exactly an AED is and a few reasons why they should be installed in as many schools as possible.


An AED, or automatic external defibrillator, is a medical device that can detect the heart’s rhythm and reset this rhythm, if necessary, via an electric shock. Because cardiac arrest can occur at any moment, AEDs are common in public places, from government buildings to recreation centers. Currently, estimates place over 3 million AEDS in public places all over the United States. Yet, despite this prevalence, AEDs are still surprisingly rare in many schools. According to the American College of Cardiologists, only 17 out of 50 states require AEDs in schools. Of these 17 states, only two require them in public and private grade schools. Only one state requires them in colleges.


We often imagine cardiac arrest victims as adults, suffering from heart attacks or conditions like coronary heart disease. While it’s true that the majority of cardiac arrest victims are older adults, children are still at risk. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reports that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) claims the lives of over 2,000 children every year. Cardiac arrest is especially common in young athletes as two-thirds of these episodes occur during strenuous activity or exercise, which makes an even stronger case for having AEDs in schools.


When someone suffers from cardiac arrest, there’s simply no time to waste. With each minute that passes, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim significantly decreases. Studies show that survival from cardiac arrest decreases by 10 percent for every minute that passes between collapse and defibrillation. Therefore, if you see someone undergoing cardiac arrest, there often is no time to contact a medical professional. While you should always first call 911, you need to jump into action as soon as possible. Having a nearby AED saves valuable seconds, which can then save valuable lives.


When someone is suffering from cardiac arrest, you don’t always have time to find the nearest doctor or nurse. That’s why it’s imperative for people to be trained in CPR and other life-saving procedures. For those of us not trained to use medical equipment, it can be overwhelming, even scary, to think about using an AED on someone undergoing cardiac arrest. What if I use it wrong? Could I do even more harm than good? Luckily, this is a fear you can quickly debunk as AEDS are expertly designed and easy to use. AEDs are small, portable, and even provide step by step instructions to the bystander so there’s hardly any chance of misuse. When turned on, the AED instructs the user on how to use it with precise details, including even where to place the electrodes on the victim. Additionally, the AED will only supply an electrical shock if the victim absolutely needs it. With AEDs being so simple to use, they’re ideal for use in schools.


Even though AEDs are expertly designed and easy to use, it can still be intimidating to jump into action if you don’t have medical training. The most common fear: what if I hurt the victim even worse? To encourage bystanders to take action, most states have Good Samaritan laws, designed to legally protect you when attempting to help someone in a life-threatening emergency. While the laws vary state by state, they all offer some degree of protection to someone providing CPR or using an AED. The need for immediate medical attention is well-known in cardiac arrest incidents; therefore, these laws have been designed to make it safer for both the bystander and the victim.


While the safety of children is the number one priority in any school, the health and safety of teachers and staff is also essential. Since cardiac arrest is much more common in older populations, most teachers and staff are at a higher risk of experiencing a cardiac arrest episode. This is just one more important reason as to why AEDs should be installed in as many schools as possible.

Safety in our schools should always be a top priority to protect our children. Supplying schools with AEDS is a logical, affordable, and simple step toward achieving this goal. AEDs are affordable, easy to use, and critical when only a matter of minutes could be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing cardiac arrest. While more prevalent in adults, sudden cardiac arrest affects thousands of children every year. Simply enough, AEDs in schools can save lives.