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More AEDs coming to Nevada County? Legislation requires many schools to have AEDs without any financial backing to distribute them

In April, Karen Harris saved a life. A 74-year-old man was undergoing cardiac arrest and a staff member grabbed the Nevada Union High School nurse (coincidentally working late that day) to help him.

“He was very, very pale and there was no sign of breathing,” said Harris of the man.

With some assistance, Harris began doing CPR and then used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock him back to life. Without using the AED, said Harris, the grandfather previously watching his grandsons play volleyball, would have died.

Due to new state legislation, the school health services coordinator for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools is now writing grants to put AEDs in every school in the county.


According to new legislation approved by the governor on September 21, 2018, AEDs need to be in all California schools that have non-intramural sports teams.

“Commencing July 1, 2019,” the bill reads, “if a school district or charter school elects to offer any interscholastic athletic program, the school district or charter shall acquire at least one AED for each school within the school district or charter.”

The bill was meant to support student, administrative and faculty safety.

Each year, about 10,000 youth are affected by sudden cardiac arrest nationally, according to the CPR & First Aid website. Currently, about 75% of California schools have AEDs.

There is one challenging aspect to the legislation, said Health Services Coordinator Sharyn Turner.

“If you have any athletic activity in the schools, then you have to have an AED available, and it has to be acquired outside of state funding,” she said. That is, the state is not providing any funding to support a mandate requiring AEDs in schools.

In the past, due to high costs, the state legislature has shown reluctance to introduce legislation without the necessary funding, said Turner.

“In over 35 states in the U.S., it has been a law for many years,” she said.

While there is no watchdog ensuring every relevant school has an AED on site, Turner said the repercussions could be severe if the county doesn’t follow the law as stated.

“If there was an incident and no AED on premise, the liability would be outrageous,” she said.


There are currently 14 AEDs in the Nevada Joint Union High School District, said Harris.

“We have one at every site (in the district),” she said

Turner said the county has been successful in obtaining grant funding to place AEDs in most high schools, but much less so in K-8 schools.

“We have presently only a few in elementary and middle school, as they are costly,” she said, ranging from $1,800 to $2,200 each.

The priority, however, should be on high schools because “the chances of (cardiac arrest) happening at a high school is much higher than at an elementary school,” she said. The superintendent of Nevada County schools agrees, mostly because it’s older individuals, especially parents who attend sports events, that will most likely need the machines.

“Strains, breaks, bones, concussions — those are the number one things for our kids in our sports programs,” said Scott Lay. “Statistically, if you asked us who we use AEDs on, it’s parents.”

Lay said it’s also crucial to strategically place the AEDs, or at least move them around to ensure they are in the right place at the right — or, more properly, wrong — time.

“Time is absolutely critical. You need to get to the person absolutely immediately,” he said, adding that the machines need to be near a track and gymnasium, or at least carried to those sites before events begin.


About six years ago, Turner said the county acquired AEDs by partnering with the public health department. The county, like everyone else, has had to continuously check to ensure the machine’s batteries are updated and is generally functioning properly.

Turner referenced a time when the lack of upkeep resulted in fatality. An oral surgeon at the state capitol collapsed, she said. An AED was on site, but the man died because the batteries were dead.

“It’s not just, ‘Did they have an AED?’ But, ‘Did they have one in working order?’” she asked.

By next fall, the health services coordinator is hoping to buy the machines in bulk, acquiring 30 at $1,800 a piece.

“I doubt very much that I can get them all at once,” she said. “Most of the schools will need more than one.”

Lay said the county is supposed to circumvent the state when applying to get AEDs, writing grants to nonprofits and possibly, as a last ditch effort, getting donations through the community. The superintendent said the county is working with private schools, like Forest Lake Christian, to get the machines.

Providing AEDs is another step the county is making toward improving safety, said Turner, noting that in the Nevada Joint Union High School District, most schools require CPR training for its staff members.

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at scorey@theunion.com.

Due to information provided to The Union, the grandchildren playing volleyball were inaccurately depicted. The grandfather was watching his grandsons.

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