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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(3):615

AHA Report on Response to Cardiac Arrest

The American Heart Association (AHA) has developed a medical emergency response plan for schools to reduce the incidence of life-threatening emergencies and maximize the chances of survival. The report, “Response to Cardiac Arrest and Selected Life-Threatening Medical Emergencies,” is available online at

Life-threatening emergencies can occur in students and adults and can be the result of preexisting health problems, violence, unintentional injuries, natural disasters, and toxins. Each year, more than one third of schools may have an emergency that involves an adult and requires the activation of the emergency medical services system. Schools now have fewer nurses, and nurses often rotate between schools, leaving some schools without professional medical care for hours or days each week. The AHA and other professional organizations have recommended school emergency response plans to increase the potential of saving lives and make the most efficient use of school equipment and personnel.

The core elements of the plan include effective and efficient communication throughout the school campus; a coordinated and practiced response plan; risk reduction through safety precautions and identification of potential high-risk situations; training and equipment for first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and implementation of a lay rescuer automated external defibrillator program in schools that have an established need.

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