If you’re a school administrator or faculty member in New Jersey, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with Janet’s Law. Under this piece of legislation, every public and private school in the Garden State must have automated external defibrillators (aka AED machine) available for emergencies. The requirements are straightforward, and reports indicate that Janet’s Law is already saving lives.
History of Janet’s Law
Janet’s Law was introduced following the tragic death of 11-year-old Janet Zilinski, a New Jersey cheerleader who died as a result of cardiac arrest. Janet was on her way to cheerleading practice when she started to feel tired. Shortly thereafter, she lost consciousness and her heart stopped beating. She was treated on-site by a pediatric trauma nurse, and she survived all the way to the hospital, even stabilizing and regaining consciousness at one point.
Sadly, she suffered an additional cardiac arrest in the hospital, which she did not survive. Janet had no known heart problems or major medical issues, and there were no warning signs prior to her first collapse. This is an all-too-common scenario with cardiac arrest sufferers.
After Janet passed away, her family started The Janet Fund, which works to raise awareness about the very real threat of childhood cardiac arrest. The family also lobbied for legislation requiring defibrillators on school grounds, and thus Janet’s Law was born. Since the law took effect, over 4,000 people have been trained in CPR, more than 400 AEDs have been placed in schools, and 20 lives have been saved across New Jersey.
Requirements of Janet’s Law
First enacted on September 1st, 2014, Janet’s Law requires that all K-12 schools in New Jersey—public and private—establish and implement an Emergency Action Plan to address sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Every school is required to have at least one AED, and at least five faculty members must hold a current CPR certification from the American Heart Association.
Every school’s Emergency Action Plan must address:
- The person(s) responsible for retrieving the AED in an emergency
- The person(s) responsible for calling 911 in an emergency
- The person(s) responsible for performing CPR
- The person(s) responsible for operating the defibrillator
- The person(s) responsible for assisting emergency services professionals after the event
Janet’s Law also requires that:
- The AED must be located within reasonable proximity of the athletic field or gymnasium
- The AED must be in an unlocked location and accessible during the school day
- The AED must be clearly identified with appropriate signage
- The AED must be available whenever a school-sponsored athletic event or practice takes place
- Each public school district must establish and implement an emergency action plan for responding to sudden cardiac events that—among other things—lists at least five school faculty members who are certified in CPR and AED use
- An emergency-trained coach, faculty member, EMT, or other first responder must be present at every athletic event and practice
All plans and procedures should be documented in writing and reviewed with all participating faculty members on a regular basis.
In addition, The New Jersey Code requires that parents of student-athletes be made aware of the risk and prevention factors for sudden cardiac death (NJSA 18a 40).
Do Schools Need More than One AED?
Janet’s Law requires a minimum of one AED in every school building. However, the law dictates that local jurisdictions can enact their own more stringent requirements. Beyond that, it’s the responsibility of each school to determine the optimal number of defibrillators based on the size of the campus, the number of fields and gymnasiums, the number of athletic teams, and the number of home vs. away games.
An AED should always be readily available during athletic competitions and practices. So if a school has multiple teams engaging in simultaneous activities in different locations, more than one defibrillator may be warranted.
Are AEDs Required for Off-Campus Athletic Events?
Janet’s Law requires that AEDs be accessible whenever there is a school-sponsored athletic event or practice—regardless of the location. If a team is playing an away game at a school across town, that field or gymnasium should have its own defibrillator nearby. If a team is practicing or competing away from school grounds in another public facility, an AED must be provided by the school and kept within reasonable proximity of the students.
What Does “Within Reasonable Proximity” Mean Under Janet’s Law?
The terms “accessible” and “within reasonable proximity” are not clearly defined and are subject to interpretation or local regulation. As a general guideline, the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that an AED should be centrally located and accessible within a 1- to 1.5-minute walk from any location.
Are AEDs Required on Field Trips?
The law does not clearly specify whether a defibrillator is required on non-athletic field trips. This should be addressed in each school’s Emergency Action Plan. If a field trip involves strenuous activity like long hikes or climbing, an AED would be advised. A defibrillator should also be considered if the destination is far from emergency services. Likewise, if you have a student with a history of heart issues like cardiac arrhythmias, consider bringing an AED along.
Facts About Childhood Cardiac Arrest
Janet’s Law addresses a number of startling realities regarding childhood cardiac arrest. For instance, more than 16,000 children experience cardiac arrest every year.
Unfortunately, only 8% of juvenile cardiac arrest sufferers survive to hospital discharge, and only 43% of in-hospital sufferers survive. The survival rate is directly linked to the timeliness and effectiveness of intervention: namely CPR and defibrillation.
For every minute that passes without treatment, the patient’s prognosis declines by 10%. That’s why it’s so important to have AEDs at the ready and trained staff on site. By responding immediately with CPR and electric shock, bystanders are able to save lives.
What’s the Best AED for Schools?
Janet’s Law addresses an important fact: all schools should have at least one defibrillator available. Any working AED is beneficial, but certain models are especially favored in academic environments. Read our guide for the best AEDs for schools.
Every School Needs a Quality AED
If your school isn’t located in New Jersey, you aren’t subject to Janet’s Law. However, even if your school isn’t required to have an automated external defibrillator, you should strongly consider investing in one. Cardiac arrest isn’t just something that affects senior citizens. As we’ve seen with Janet Zilinski and countless others, cardiac arrest can occur at any time—most often without warning.
By making an external defibrillator available in your school, you’re taking an invaluable step in protecting the health and well-being of the students in your care. You might never need to use that AED, but if you do, you’ll be eternally grateful you were prepared.