This is the first comprehensive national analysis of state legal requirements of recommended PAD program elements. Our findings indicate that, in most jurisdictions, the critical elements necessary to sustain and ensure AED functionality are either missing from state laws or are not required of all PAD programs.
Less than 8% of people who have cardiac arrest will survive; however, this survival rate could be improved by increasing the use of AEDs in the community (2
). A recent study in Japan found that increasing the number of available AEDs nationwide from 1 to 4 per square kilometer more than doubled the proportion of patients who were alive 1 month after the OHCA with minimal neurological impairment compared with those who did not receive a shock with an AED (13
). To achieve optimal public health benefits of PAD programs, AEDs should be well marked, easy to access, and strategically placed in high-risk locations, such as transportation hubs, high-density public areas, sites with EMS response times longer than 5 minutes, and sites with an expected incidence of at least 1 cardiac arrest every 5 years (10
). In addition, national organizations recommend the purchase and use of AEDs in emergency response planning in schools and fitness facilities (18
). Despite these life-saving recommendations, few states have laws that require PAD programs in high-risk or high-density locations ().
An analysis of AED use rates in municipal buildings in Copenhagen found that PADs implemented through local or political initiatives were not used because of a low incidence of cardiac arrest at the site and a lack of accessibility to the AEDs by the general public (15
). OHCA is not a reportable event in any US jurisdiction; few communities are able to plan an effective response because they lack the data to identify high-risk populations and locations or to evaluate if existing PAD programs are properly deployed (20
). Ongoing evaluation of AED use rates in relation to where OHCAs actually occur is necessary to determine the optimal locations for PAD programs; however, we found that laws in 75% of the states do not mention quality improvement or evaluation of AED use. Policy makers should consider authorizing mandated reporting of OHCAs through standardized data collection systems such as the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES) program (21
), the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) (22
), and the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) out-of-hospital cardiac arrest population-based registry (23
). Such information can be used to track OHCA outcomes associated with AED use, to determine which EMS elements of the PAD programs are functioning properly, and to identify changes to PAD policies that can improve survival rates.
More than 200,000 AEDs are purchased annually for public use in the United States (24
). However, our findings showed that more than 40% of jurisdictions do not require EMS notification or device registration of the AED location, suggesting that AEDs in many locations — including schools and other targeted sites — cannot be traced for recall. In 2005 alone, more than 50,000 AED devices were affected by advisories issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Between 1996 and 2005, 21.2% of AEDs were affected by recall advisories in 9 of the 10 years, and accessories, such as batteries, pads, and cables, were recalled in 7 of those years. In addition, 370 deaths were associated with an AED malfunction in the same time period (24
). Coordinating the PAD program with an EMS agency is critical because a link with EMS or the 9-1-1 dispatch service can be used to inform AED owners about FDA-issued advisories and device recalls. Incorporating newer technologies such as global positioning system (GPS) and Next Generation 9-1-1 into existing and future AEDs should be considered to improve AED retrieval and maintenance.
A 2006 survey of PAD programs established in business, educational, and community buildings located throughout Johnson County, Iowa, found that after 2 years no site complied with all the AHA recommendations for community lay rescuer PAD programs (25
). This study revealed multiple deficiencies in and barriers to adherence to the AHA guidelines, such as lack of access to and notification of the AED location, failure to replenish batteries, expired pads, scheduling of maintenance checks either infrequently or not at all, and limited to no funds for AED upkeep. At the time this study was conducted, Iowa law did not require AED maintenance. In 2010, we found that only 60% of all jurisdictions require AED maintenance, less than half require medical oversight of the program, and only 1 in 4 jurisdictions requires continuous quality improvement planning, indicating that PAD programs in many communities are at risk of failure. Further research evaluating facilitators and barriers to adherence to PAD program elements comparing jurisdictions with comprehensive PAD legislation to less regulated jurisdictions should help to identify the most effective policies for sustaining PAD programs.
AHA recommends that states provide immunity from civil liability for lay rescuers who act "in good faith, without specific compensation, as a reasonable and prudent person with the same level of training would respond" in an emergency, regardless of whether the lay rescuer was trained to provide CPR or use an AED (10
). Good Samaritan laws provide this immunity by restricting the circumstances under which a lay rescuer can be sued for civil damages, thereby facilitating the use of AEDs by lay bystanders witnessing a cardiac arrest. Similarly, laws that protect PAD program facilitators from liability make it easier for businesses, schools, organizations, and others to implement PAD programs. We identified 3 states that do not provide immunity to untrained lay rescuers; such policies could impede efforts to use AEDs even though evidence shows that untrained lay persons can apply an AED safely and effectively. We also found that many jurisdictions have policies with conditional or no liability protection for AED acquirers and PAD medical directors, which may affect an organization's decision to purchase an AED or implement a PAD program. Concerns about the liability risks of implementing a PAD program were raised in a survey of Florida fitness club owners and managers, leading the study authors to conclude that a carefully designed, implemented, and operated PAD program may be the best risk management strategy (26
). However, assessments of the legal risks associated with AEDs have found litigation arising primarily from not having a readily available AED and trained staff on the premises when a cardiac arrest occurs (11
). Jurisdictions that confer broader liability protection on PAD program facilitators are more likely to have the flexibility to implement PAD programs in sites with a high risk of OHCA rather than placing them in low-risk areas in reaction to concerns about litigation.
The descriptive nature of this analysis limits our ability to discern whether comprehensive PAD policies are effective in saving lives. We were unable to associate cardiac arrest survival rates with the strength of a state policy or to assess the extent to which PAD programs are properly implemented in the states. Therefore, we are unable to assess to what extent PAD policies underlie geographic differences in cardiac arrest survival rates. Studies in the United States and Canada have shown a range of OHCA survival rates, from 7% to approximately 40% in some areas (1
). Future studies assessing the number and locations of AEDs and PAD programs per state, as well as analyzing AED use and OHCA outcomes, are needed to assess whether comprehensive PAD policies are associated with improved survival rates. Our analysis was limited to state laws; therefore, we do not know the extent to which municipal ordinances requiring more PAD elements than required by state law improve PAD effectiveness. Finally, our review did not capture the actual rate of enforcement of PAD policies or the use of economic incentives to purchase AEDs.
Although all states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to make PAD programs more widespread, policies in many jurisdictions leave these programs at risk of failure because critical elements necessary to ensure AED functionality are not always required. Policy makers should consider strengthening PAD policies by enacting laws that can reduce the time from collapse to shock, such as requiring the strategic placement of AEDs in high-risk locations or mandatory PAD registries that are coordinated with local EMS and dispatch centers. Further research is also needed to identify the most effective PAD policies for increasing AED use by lay persons and improving survival rates.