COLUMBIA, S.C. January 24, 2024 — Of the 356,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside of a hospital each year in the U.S., over 23,000 cases are children under the age of 18. Almost 40% of these events are sports related and only about 40% of people get the immediate help they need before emergency responders arrive. If a cardiac arrest happens at a school in South Carolina, chances are there is not a cardiac emergency response plan in place, and the 911 dispatcher may not be trained on how to instruct the 911 caller on how to deliver CPR. Two bills recently introduced in the General Assembly would change this.

A cardiac emergency response plan (CERP) establishes specific steps to reduce death from cardiac arrests in school settings. Schools can be better prepared for cardiac emergencies by designating members of a response team, ensuring proper placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), establishing proper CPR and AED training protocols, conducting practice drills, and integrating local EMS personnel.

"In my medical and volunteer experience, I've seen firsthand the vital importance of Telecommunicator CPR training,” said Joshua Trout, CEO of Encompass Health, Board Chairman and Heart Walk chairman of the Upstate American Heart Association. “Equipping our telecommunicators with this training is not just legislation; it's a lifeline that can save precious moments and lives. Advocating for these bills is advocating for a safer and healthier tomorrow,” said Trout.

South Carolina law currently lacks a coordinated statewide cardiac emergency response model for schools to follow. Existing state law requires AEDs to be placed at each high school but does not require these AEDs to be strategically placed to ensure they are physically accessible within 3 minutes of a person collapsing from a sudden cardiac arrest on school grounds. South Carolina does not require AEDs to be accessible at athletic venues where high school practices and competitions are held, where they could be used to save the life of a student athlete experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. 

The South Carolina Smart Heart Act would also require schools and organizations that sponsor athletics to adopt and implement venue-specific emergency action plans (EAPs) for life-threatening athletics-related emergencies and require all high school sports coaches to obtain and maintain training for CPR, AED use, and first aid. “CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. As we continue to student athletes experiencing cardiac issues, we need to implement common-sense safety protocols during school athletic events,” said Christopher Huffman, M.D., cardiologist with MUSC Health Columbia and Board President of the Midlands American Heart Association.

To ensure that cardiac arrest victims receive CPR as quickly as possible, 911 telecommunicators can provide CPR instructions to callers, also referred to as “T-CPR.” 911 Telecommunicators in South Carolina receive one week of training at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA). They may receive additional training from the local agencies employing them, however, there is not currently a statewide training requirement for T-CPR in South Carolina. A 911 caller’s location could determine whether they are connected with a telecommunicator who is trained in how to provide high-quality CPR instructions over the phone, which can mean the difference between life and death.

The South Carolina T-CPR Training Law would require all telecommunicators in South Carolina who provide dispatch for emergency medical conditions to be trained in the delivery of high-quality T-CPR. The T-CPR training would incorporate protocols for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), compression-only CPR instruction for callers, and a continuous education requirement.

Support the enactment of the Smart Heart Act and the T-CPR Training Law in South Carolina by joining the American Heart Association’s You're the Cure network. Text SMARTSC to 46839. You’re the Cure members will receive regular updates about these bills and opportunities to engage with elected officials to support them.



About the American Heart Association  The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for a century. During 2024 - our Centennial year - we celebrate our rich 100-year history and accomplishments as we forge ahead into our second century of bold discovery and impact. Connect with us on, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.     


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