Medical Emergencies in Schools: Plan Now to Address Life-Threatening Emergencies and Reduce Risk

By Mahoney, Dan | District Administration, February 2014 | Go to article overview

Medical Emergencies in Schools: Plan Now to Address Life-Threatening Emergencies and Reduce Risk


Mahoney, Dan, District Administration


Medical emergencies can happen in any school at any time. They can be the result of pre-existing health problems, accidents, violence, unintentional actions, natural disasters and toxins. Premature deaths in schools from sudden cardiac arrest, blunt trauma to the chest, gunshot wounds, asthma, head injuries, drug overdose, allergic reactions and heat stroke have been reported.

School leaders and staff deal with these emergencies frequently, but in an often inconsistent manner. Consistency in response can be enhanced by developing an emergency plan to deal with life-threatening medical emergencies and training staff.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) found that 18 percent of all teachers surveyed in elementary and high schools in the Midwest had provided some aspect of emergency care to more than 20 students each academic year. Seventeen percent reported that they had responded to one or more life-threatening student emergencies during their teaching career. A survey of school nurses in New Mexico revealed that, each year, 67 percent of schools activated the EMS system for a student, and 37 percent of the schools activated the EMS system for an adult.

AAP published a heavily endorsed policy statement on this issue (Pediatrics, Vol. 113 No. 1 January 2004, pp.155-168). The AAP policy statement summarizes essential information about life-threatening emergencies, including details about sudden cardiac arrest, the components of an emergency response plan, the training of school personnel and students to respond to life-threatening emergencies, and the equipment required for the emergency response.

If your planning team is unfamiliar with the document, take a look, and use it to build or audit your medical emergency response plan. Visit AAP for more information and resources at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org.

Recommended elements of a plan:

1. Ensure the school officials can communicate effectively with each other and with local EMS personnel

2. Develop and practice a coordinated response plan.

3. Reduce risk by identifying students with medical conditions and training staff members to prevent and respond to those conditions.

4. Make sure staff is trained in CPR and the use of up-to-date first aid equipment.

5. Train staff to use automatic external defibrillators for cardiac emergencies. …

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