The Rhode Island General Assembly approved a bill last fall mandating that public places in Rhode Island capable of holding 300 or more people have an automated external defibrillator (AED) and a qualified person to administer it.

"Defibrillators save lives," said Senator Maryellen Goodwin. "They are safe, relatively inexpensive and easy to use, providing users automated guidance to help them use them effectively while waiting for emergency responders to arrive. Keeping them handy where big crowds gather greatly serves public health in Rhode Island, and could very well mean the difference between a tragedy and a life that is saved.

Sponsors of the bill said grants to purchase AEDs can be obtained through organizations of government programs.

"Every minute counts when someone is suffering cardiac arrest, and having a defibrillator on site means the victim's heart can be restarted right away, as opposed to having to wait until an ambulance can get there," said Rep. Bennett, who is a registered nurse. "Making sure large public places have defibrillators is a way we can provide greater protection to the public in Rhode Island, where cardiac arrest claims more than 1,000 lives each year."

About 325,000 Americans suffer sudden cardiac arrest each year. If defibrillation is performed within five to seven minutes of cardiac arrest, chances of survival are increased by 49 percent. Every minute that goes by without defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by 7 to 10 percent.

According to the American Red Cross, improved training and access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year. The Red Cross supports efforts to ensure that all Americans are within four minutes of an AED and someone trained to use it.

Last year, the General Assembly enacted a law requiring AEDs at all middle and high schools in the state.

Source: WPRI Eyewitness News