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NJ Red Cross Helping Schools Meet New Preparedness Challenges

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2,000 Americans under the age of 25 die each year because of a cardiac emergency.

Two new state laws go into effect this fall that will require New Jersey school districts and students to be better prepared for potential cardiac emergencies. Janet’s Law, which takes effect September 1, requires school districts to be prepared for cardiac emergencies that take place at schools and at school-sponsored athletic events. A second law signed on August 20 will require all students graduating from New Jersey high schools to have learned CPR and how to use a defibrillator.

According to the journal Pediatrics, 2,000 Americans under the age of 25 die each year because of a cardiac emergency. Many of these deaths could be prevented. Since Janet’s Law was signed in 2012, the American Red Cross in New Jersey has worked with school districts to offer them a series of trainings, action plans and access to automatic external defibrillators (AED). This includes:

  • CPR and AED training for coaches, instructors and administrators;
  • Emergency action plans that can be adapted for local needs; and
  • Access to AEDs, including up to 30 percent discounts through Red Cross partners at Phillips, Physio Control and Zoll.

    Janet’s Law was inspired by a tragedy in Warren, N.J. and seeks to better prepare schools in case of a sudden cardiac emergency. The law was enacted to commemorate Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old cheerleader who died in 2006 after suffering sudden cardiac arrest at her school. The school didn’t have an AED, a device that restores a normal heart rhythm, nor was there anyone who knew how to perform CPR.

    Under Janet’s Law, every New Jersey school (public and private) will be required to have an AED on site, in a clearly marked place near the gym or an athletic field with staff members, such as a coach or trainer, certified on how to use it. As an alternative, a certified EMT or first responder must be present at all practices or events. In addition, the schools must have at least five staff members certified in CPR and a detailed action plan in case a student or staff member has a cardiac emergency.

    Recently, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, on behalf of Governor Chris Christie, signed a separate bill that requires all graduating high school students to learn CPR. New Jersey is the third state to implement such a law, joining Illinois and Oklahoma. Regulations implementing the law, which received broad bipartisan support, are still being written by the state Department of Education. The Red Cross is working with the state to ensure the regulations can be implemented in the simplest manner possible.


    Find a Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED class near you. Group training for schools can be scheduled by filling out the request form at