Senate Okays Life-saving Defibrillator Bill

James L. Seward

June 16, 2006

The New York State Senate has approved a measure sponsored by Senator James L. Seward that would permit first responders to possess automatic external defibrillators (AEDs).

The bill, S. 4669, was suggested by first responders in Sen. Seward's district whose possession of AEDs in their personal vehicles was called into question by the state Department of Health.

"I can not think of anything more sensible and practical than allowing EMTs and first responders to have defibrillators in their vehicles in the event that someone has heart attack when they are nearby and ready and willing to assist," Senator Seward said. "Often the few minutes following a heart attack are critical for the patient, and if an off-duty EMT can respond and use a defibrillator, we raise the chance that a heart attack victim will survive. Unfortunately, state law doesn't yet recognize practicality and common sense in this case."

Under current law, a fire department or emergency squad can not provide its off duty EMTs with defibrillators without a special license and an agreement mandated by state law. As a result, EMTs who are on their own time in their communities at picnics, graduation parties, parades, or athletic events can not respond to someone suffering a heart attack like they could if permitted to possess AEDs in their personal vehicles.

"This is a case of citizens working to change a law," Seward added. "When local EMS officials from my district pointed out that first responders can not possess AEDs in their own vehicles, I went to work crafting a bill that would remedy the situation. I hope we can see it enacted into law."

The bill passed the senate on June 14. It is A. 8872 in the assembly, where it is in committee.