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Action of a medic rescue staff is opening AED station box to take the AED machine, using to help a heart attack patients. Health care and medical action photo. Selective focus on people's hand.

A heartfelt commitment to safety: Ensuring our tomorrow with automated external defibrillators

By Chris Hansen, CEO of Child Care of Southwest Florida

More than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year, according to the American Heart Association. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any age, and those crucial first moments can mean the difference between life and death. In fact, reports show nine in 10 cardiac arrest victims who receive a shock from a defibrillator within the first minute live.

The importance of accessible automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public spaces cannot be overstated in terms of providing the definitive care needed during such an unexpected event.

For me, this life-saving initiative is not just a professional commitment; it’s personal. Before joining Child Care of Southwest Florida (CCSWFL), I had the privilege of serving as the chief of emergency medical services for Lee County, where I had an opportunity to lead the charge in deploying the first AEDs on firetrucks and training over 1,000 firefighters in their use. As a former paramedic, I have witnessed these devices save countless lives in various settings outside of hospital walls.

Florida law mandates AEDs in certain locations, including assisted living facilities, dental offices and schools with sports programs. Yet, there is no legal requirement for these life-saving devices in private businesses or other public areas, even though cardiac arrest can occur anywhere, from the workplace to the supermarket, or even when picking up infants and toddlers from child care.

This year, CCSWFL made a significant step forward in our commitment to the safety and preparedness of our children, staff and families we serve. Thanks to the generosity of the Claiborne and Ned Foulds Foundation and The Wawa Foundation, a total of $11,000 in grants allowed CCSWFL to equip all five early learning centers and the administrative office and training center with AEDs, enhancing our ability to respond to cardiac emergencies.

State requirements mandate that child care centers have one CPR and first aid trained individual on site. CCSWFL took it a step further, training all staff members and creating a network of first responders ready to act if the unthinkable occurs. This ensures each of our centers are a “Heart Smart” location, a Lee County initiative aimed to empower the community with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to respond in times of cardiac emergencies.

About 23,000 children and teens, ages 5 to 19, experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year, reports Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. For the small children in our care, ranging from birth to 8 years old, pediatric cardiac arrest is considered rare and often triggered by a respiratory event, such as an allergic reaction or choking. The installation of AEDs is a continuation of our mission to create the safest possible environment for the youngest members of our community, their families and our staff.

We are grateful for support that allows us to take such definitive steps in safeguarding our community. However, the journey does not end here. I invite the community to join us in this mission and consider installing a life-saving device in your child care centers, businesses, churches and other public places across the community, to ensure the continued safety of our loved one’s futures.

Together, we can make a lasting impact on the hearts and minds we cherish most.