Hawaii council OK's city-wide AED mandate

The bill will also shield people who use AEDs to help save someone in cardiac arrest from liability

By Jayna Omaye
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU — Sharon Maekawa says a City Council bill approved Wednesday that would require automated external defibrillators in all city buildings and new Oahu buildings could help save lives.

Maekawa’s 28-year-old daughter died in 2009 from cardiac arrest at work. If there had been a defibrillator, also known as an AED, in the building, Maekawa said, her daughter might be alive.

“It (cardiac arrest) can happen to anyone at anytime,” said Maekawa of the AED Institute of America and the nonprofit Kids 4 CPR. “It really doesn’t hit you until you have a personal loss. Our lives changed.”

Bill 69 would mandate that AEDs be installed and maintained in every city building and new buildings constructed on or after Jan. 1, 2018, that have an occupancy of 50 or more. At least one AED must be placed on each floor that would be accessible to residents, employees and the public.

The bill, introduced by Councilman Brandon Elefante, includes a reference to Hawaii’s “good Samaritan immunity laws,” which shield people who use AEDs to help save someone in cardiac arrest from liability. The ordinance would take effect in January if it is signed into law by Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Elefante, who serves as chairman of the Council’s Public Health, Safety and Welfare Committee, said an AED costs an average of $1,500.

Elefante said he introduced the bill after discussing the idea with city Emergency Services officials.

“I feel that we can be a (healthier) city. We can save lives and definitely make a difference for someone who is experiencing cardiac arrest,” Elefante said. “You can’t really put a price tag on saving people’s lives.”

Less than 8 percent of people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But those odds increase by two to three times when a bystander can quickly apply an AED before paramedics arrive, the center found.

Ian Santee, Emergency Services acting director, had said at a Council meeting last month that paramedics respond to an average of 1,000 cardiac arrests on Oahu each year. Honolulu Hale and some of the city’s parks and pools are among locations that have AEDs, he said. Santee had pointed out that some mainland counties have a higher cardiac arrest survival rate because of better access to AEDs and more people trained in CPR.

In a statement Wednesday, Emergency Medical Services Chief Dean Nakano said, “The installation of (AEDs) in our city buildings strengthens the partnership between the public, our paramedics, emergency medical technicians and all of the first responders, which in turn will increase the survival rate of cardiac arrest patients.”

The Building Owners and Managers Association Hawaii had expressed concerns, saying that the government “should not mandate AEDs in public and private office buildings unless such mandates include funding for training and acquisition of the devices,” according to testimony submitted earlier this month.

Steven Sullivan, the organization’s legislative committee chairman, said Wednesday that “we respect the final decision made by the City Council.”

Maekawa, of the AED Institute, said it has trained some city employees in CPR and to use defibrillators, and that the organization could help with more training in the future. She added that she hopes the bill will also help to spread awareness about sudden cardiac arrest.

Copyright 2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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