Better to be safe than sorry

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Quoting from The Mikey Young at Heart School Defibrillator Program, “As we all know children are our future. We love them, we cherish them, and we will do everything in our power to make sure they grow up healthy and strong. Yet, as much as we try to protect them, even the young can develop unexpected heart problems. Indeed, there are no age barriers to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which can happen to anyone, at any time, in any location. Each year in Ontario, children and teens are among the more than 6,500 people who experience SCA. Fortunately, there’s hope for a second chance at life for many of those who do.” If we extrapolate the number in Ontario to Nova Scotia’s population, there are probably 500 people who experience SCA in our province.

Several weeks ago the Chignecto Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) asked the Operations Committee to review the need and requirements to putting AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) in all of our schools starting with high schools. These could be phased in over several years as they become available. The fact is we already have some schools in our region that have AEDs. We also know that the board does not have a policy on the installation of AEDs, the upkeep of AEDs and a routine plan to insure people are trained to use them. Clearly, CCRSB needs a policy to insure the safe reliable use of defibrillators.

The other question that begs for an answer is: ‘does the risk of cardiac arrest demand the presence of AED’s in all our schools?’ A report from the Occupational Health and Safety manager at the South Shore Regional School Board wrote  “Statistically, a P – 12 school with 500 students and 50 staff of average age might experience one cardiac arrest every 12 years with a 33 per cent chance of it occurring during school hours.” That is a very low risk but does it mean that we should not place AEDs in schools? My own opinion is that we should place an AED in every school in our school board and provide all the training necessary to insure proper use.

Quoting from a pamphlet provided by Physio Control, a U.S. publication for Schools and Education titled ‘AED Implementation Guide’: “Every minute counts. Typically, only about five per cent of people struck down by SCA survive. But if people in Ventricular Fibrillation receive CPR and the life saving AED shock within three minutes of collapse, the survival rate can increase up to 74 per cent. Reducing response time by even one or two minutes from collapse to shock can mean the difference between death and survival.”

I believe the presence of an AED will make schools safer and we all remember the saying “it is better to be safe than sorry.”


An education advocate, Ron Marks has been an outspoken member of local and regional school boards and a former Stellarton mayor. His column runs weekly.

Organizations: Chignecto Central Regional School Board, Heart School, Operations Committee South Shore Regional School Board

Geographic location: Ontario, Nova Scotia, U.S. Ventricular Fibrillation Stellarton

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Recent comments

  • HeartFelt Response Medical Inc
    March 31, 2014 - 10:34

    Dear Ron Just wanted you to know that the Province of Nova Scotia went to tender for a fully-automatic AED that they could use in various locations all over the Province. HeartFelt Response won that tender with the Lifepak CR Plus fully auto AED and part of the award included advising all the NS School Boards that this standing offer # RSO 60146994 is available and they can purchase on it. The Lifepak CR Plus AED is fully automatic, lightweight, matches up with EHS and most Fire Departments and has been designed for the minimally trained responder. Studies have shown that in the hands of a minimally trained responder the AED will deliver the shock on average about 17% quicker thus increasing the chance of a favorable outcome. Letters were sent out to the various NS School Boards on the weekend. Pat Lane President HeartFelt Response Medical Inc 1-888-733-1919