Aaron Falk: With AEDs, location is everything

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The Utah Jazz just made a move to help fill a need.

After the team recently replaced its automated external defibrillators, trainer Gary Briggs reached out and found a Utah high school athletics program that didn't have one of the life-saving devices. The American Fork Cavemen should now breathe a little easier.

But simply having an AED on campus is not enough.

Of the Utah high schools that responded to a survey during the past legislative session, about 90 percent had at least one AED on site.

"I know a lot of our schools have AEDs, but a lot of them are in the principal's office," says Utah High School Activities Association assistant director Bart Thompson. "I'm not sure we have them at our athletics venues, particularly once school is out. Providing additional AEDs so they would be available at athletic events is certainly something we'd like to see."

When South Jordan Fire Chief Chris Evans first began working with the Jordan School District in 2009 to help enforce a city ordinance requiring AEDs in certain buildings, he saw the same problem that now concerns Thompson.

"Many of the high schools had one, but they were in a cupboard or in a principal's office, someplace where most people didn't know where it is," Evans says. "Obviously, that's very concerning."

The Legislature — which honored Utah State University basketball player Danny Berger, himself the beneficiary of an AED after collapsing at a December practice — did well this year to create a $150,000 grant to help Utah high schools purchase more defibrillators.

But more still needs to be done, officials say.

Good policies must be created to ensure student athletes don't find themselves in an emergency, with a life-saving device on the wrong side of a locked door.

And more money still must be set aside for the purchase of AEDs.

The UHSAA is planning fundraising efforts, along with local firefighter and heart associations, to help buy more AEDs, which can cost between $1,100 and $1,700.

In South Jordan, where there are now more than 300 AEDs in the lobbies of local businesses, the survival rate for a witnessed cardiac arrest is 25 percent. The national average is somewhere between 5 and 8 percent. If the first shock comes within 3 minutes of the arrest, survival rate hovers around 75 percent.

The Jordan School District's high schools, Evans says, now each have five of the devices —¬†two in public places and three that stay with the athletics staff.

That should be the standard, not the exception.

We wouldn't send a football player onto the field without a helmet and pads.