By Bill Cameron
From the Pocono Record
In what local officials believe to be the first such decision in Pennsylvania, Middle Smithfield Township supervisors voted unanimously on Thursday to adopt a new ordinance that will require automated external defibrillators in all high-occupancy buildings.
“This will be beneficial to all our residents and visitors alike,” township Supervisor Mike Dwyer said on Friday. “It’s a positive ordinance for our township that gets more AEDs out into buildings and places where people congregate.”
Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, are life-saving electronic devices used to provide immediate aid to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The units are capable of diagnosing a shockable heart rhythm and, if warranted, administering a shock to temporarily interrupt and restart the heart’s natural blood-pumping functions.
Although features vary between different models, AEDs are specifically designed for safe and easy operation by users of virtually any level of knowledge or experience. That’s because in a cardiac emergency, every second counts for a victim’s chances of survival.
Middle Smithfield’s ordinance, which will take effect 30 days after its enactment, applies to all new construction of buildings with an estimated daily occupancy of 50 or more people. Existing facilities will be exempt from the requirement; however, as with any construction code, owners who perform substantial renovations to a property will be responsible for bringing their site up to the latest standards.
“Basically, it’s similar to something like the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Dwyer said. “If you renovate your property up to 50 percent of its original value, that’s considered a major renovation and you have to come up to code for those requirements.”
Pursuant to the new ordinance, new buildings with an occupancy of 50 or more people must have at least one AED unit on each floor. Those AEDs must be visibly housed in an accessible location no more than 300 feet from any point on each floor, and no two units may be more than 600 feet apart.
Among those present for the Board of Supervisor’s decision on Thursday was Rachel Moyer, a CPR/AED advocate and Monroe County mother whose 15-year-old son Greg died on Dec. 2, 2000, of sudden cardiac arrest. Moyer has spent the past 18 years expanding access to AEDs and CPR training on a local and national level through her nonprofit Greg W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund, named in honor of her late son.
“I’m hoping this is just the first legislation like this,” Moyer said on Friday. “It says something about Monroe County that they do take this to heart. The unfortunate thing is that it usually takes a death to help people get on the bandwagon.”
“I think Middle Smithfield Township is being more preventive than reactive — and that is very important. It shows they’re strong not only in their leadership but also in protecting residents as much as they can.”
Moyer, who has worked to provide AEDs and CPR training in 47 of the 50 U.S. states, said the township’s ordinance is not only the first of its kind in Pennsylvania but also among only a few such laws throughout the nation. A number of states and localities have mandated AED placement in schools, government buildings and other types of public facilities, but few require the devices in all building types of a minimum occupancy.
As of Friday afternoon, Moyer had already received requests from people in California, Utah, Maryland and elsewhere who were interested in reviewing Middle Smithfield’s ordinance for their own municipalities to consider.
“I’ve been working on this for almost 18 years, and little things like this can have a major impact across the county,” she said. “This is the 21st century, and at this day in age this is something that should have been done already. It’s common sense.
“Unless you’ve lived something like this, it’s hard to imagine. Those of us who have, now we know we have to do something to make places more heart-safe so it doesn’t happen to the next person.”
The costs of AEDs have fallen significantly over the past two decades. Most units now cost less than half of their December 2000 average price of $3,400, selling today for closer to $1,500 each. A number of services — including Moyer’s nonprofit — are available to help businesses and organizations fund their purchases.
“I don’t think people realize how inexpensive they are,” she said. “We’ll do anything to work things out with a business. We will make it a way that’s affordable for them.”