Empowering Education: The Safety Benefits of AEDs in Schools

Implementation of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) is definitely an area that deserves a lot more attention than it’s receiving. The safety benefits of AEDs in schools are undeniable, so proper training and placement of devices should be mandatory across the United States.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can occur unexpectedly, even in young individuals. However, having AEDs readily available in schools can significantly improve survival rates and minimize the devastating impact of SCA on students, teachers, and the entire school community.

Of course, having AEDs in schools would probably be of no use at all if people, that is, bystanders, are afraid to use them. Having people certified in CPR, which includes the use of an AED, is crucial in any workplace, but in schools, it’s of the utmost importance.

That said, let’s cover some ways in which you can overcome challenges and fears related to using an AED on a victim in need, particularly when a child is in question.

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is a severe medical emergency. It occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. A common cause is ventricular fibrillation (when the heart’s chambers are flickering instead of forcefully contracting). This disrupts the heart’s electrical system and prevents it from pumping blood effectively.

Without immediate intervention, the damage that SCA can cause can be irreversible and can even result in death. Bystanders who initiate CPR can (and should) also use an AED to help restore the heart’s normal rhythm, thus massively increasing a victim’s chances of survival.

Sudden cardiac arrest can affect individuals of all ages, but it’s particularly tragic when school-aged children are the victims. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 7,037 children experience a cardiac arrest event in a year.

Given that most American children spend a significant amount of time in school, it’s vital for educational institutions to have AEDs readily available to respond to cardiac emergencies.

The Safety Benefits of AEDs in Schools

We’re so used to seeing doctors use defibrillators in movies that people tend to brush them off as a movie gimmick, but AEDs really do save lives! The system pinpoints the heart’s rhythm, analyzes it, and delivers shocks to the heart at exactly the right time. It’s invaluable in restraining the heart and greatly improving survival rates, among other things:

    • Improving Survival Rates. The presence of AEDs in schools has been shown to improve survival rates dramatically. In a school setting with an AED, the hospital survival rate for students who experience cardiac arrest is approximately 60%, compared to only 8% in the overall population of school-age children.

    • Early Intervention. Time is of the essence when it comes to responding to SCA. The chances of survival decrease by around 10% with each minute that passes without defibrillation. For every minute that passes without defibrillation. But when an AED is readily available in schools, it ensures that life-saving interventions can be initiated promptly.

    • Protecting Young Athletes. Most young athletes pass away due to SCA. Research shows that young athletes are more than twice as likely to experience SCA compared to their non-athlete peers. Schools can help protect these young individuals simply by placing AEDs in their facilities.

    • Compliance with Legislation. While not all states require AEDs in public schools, many have enacted legislation mandating their presence. As of 2020, fewer than 20 states have implemented AED requirements, with only nine of them providing the necessary funding for AEDs. However, the increasing awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and its impact on young individuals may lead to more states adopting legislation.

Optimal Placement of AEDs

There’s a way to maximize the effectiveness of AED programs, and that is to strategically place them where the risk of cardiac arrest is highest. The American Heart Association recommends AED placement in areas with at least one cardiac arrest every five years.

However, recent research from Denmark suggests that AEDs should be located in areas with a higher likelihood of cardiac arrest, such as train stations or high-density public areas.

When considering the placement of AEDs in schools, it’s important to note that the risk of cardiac arrest among students is relatively low. A study conducted in Seattle and King County, WA, found that cardiac arrests occurred less frequently in schools compared to colleges or lower-level schools.

However, most of the cardiac arrest cases reported in schools affected faculty, staff, or adults not employed by the school. Therefore, when looking to place AEDs in schools, it’s important to think about the different groups of people in the school and how often such emergencies happen among them.

Overcoming Challenges and Liabilities

Implementing AED programs in schools doesn’t come without challenges and liabilities. It can be a huge financial burden for schools when you think about the cost of acquiring AEDs, cabinets for storage, and all the related supplies.

It’s also pretty important to ensure the devices are always in optimal condition, and that only be achieved through ongoing maintenance and staff training. It would be ideal to have as many teachers in Toledo certified and comfortable to use AEDs as possible in order to reduce SCA risks drastically.

Liability concerns also arise when mandating AEDs in schools. While AEDs are designed to save lives, there have been instances where facilities faced lawsuits for not using the devices effectively. Unfortunately, this can contribute to hesitations among school districts and lawmakers in implementing AED protocols.

At the end of the day, though, the safety benefits of AEDs in schools far outweigh the challenges and liabilities. By providing proper training and implementing emergency cardiac response plans, schools can minimize the risks associated with AED usage and create a safer environment for students, faculty, and visitors.

The Role of AEDs in Public Settings

While our main focus in this article is the impact of AEDs in schools, we’d also like to talk about their broader impact in public settings. AEDs are designed to be user-friendly. They allow non-medical personnel to provide life-saving intervention before the actual medical services arrive. It can do this by delivering a shock to restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

Onsite AEDs

Onsite AEDs are devices placed in specific locations, such as schools or workplaces, to be used on patients who experience cardiac arrest within close proximity. It’s important to place them strategically throughout school buildings and other facilities so that they’re readily accessible for use during critical moments.

Clinical data from various studies supports the effectiveness of onsite AEDs in improving survival rates. For example, an observational cohort study conducted in the Netherlands demonstrated that onsite AED use significantly reduced the time to the first shock, resulting in improved survival rates with minimal neurologic impairment.

Dispatched AED Programs

In addition to onsite AEDs, some emergency medical services dispatch first responders equipped with AEDs to the scene of cardiac arrests. These dispatched AED programs provide broader coverage and serve a larger public. While some studies have shown positive outcomes, others have yielded mixed results regarding the survival benefit of dispatched AEDs.

Overall, both onsite and dispatched AED programs have demonstrated their effectiveness in increasing survival rates in public locations. Getting certified in the use of AEDs if you’re a part of the educational system is a civic duty, regardless of whether your state mandates it or not.


The safety benefits of AEDs in schools cannot be overstated. Sudden cardiac arrest can strike anyone, regardless of age or physical fitness. And if we haven’t already stressed it enough – implementing AED programs in schools can significantly improve survival rates for students, faculty, and visitors who experience cardiac arrest. While challenges and liabilities exist, the potential to save lives is what matters at the end of the day, right?

By prioritizing the installation of AEDs, providing proper training, and developing emergency response plans, schools can take proactive measures to protect their communities. With the support of legislation and advocacy efforts, the presence of AEDs in schools can become a standard practice, ensuring that every child has a better chance of coming home from school safely.

After knowing its positive impact on cardiac arrest victims, why not be one of the heroes of the community by getting certified for CPR with AED use through our CPR Certification Course? It’s one more skill to possess and, most importantly – a chance to save a life.