Assembly committee moves electronic defibrillator in schools bill

TRENTON – Assembly lawmakers voted unanimously to release a bill that would require all schools in the state to be equipped with defibrillators.

The bill, A1608, would mandate that both public and private schools must have automated external defibrillators (AEDs.) The machines are used to essentially shock a person’s heart back into rhythm when someone is suffering cardiac arrest.

The legislation, known as “Janet’s Law,” would also require the schools to establish protocols and emergency action plans for using the machines in the event someone suffers from cardiac arrest.

The bill was named for an 11-year-old Warren girl who died in August 2006.

“Janet was a happy, healthy, 11-year-old girl,” said Karen Zilinski, Janet’s mother, who testified in support of the bill during this afternoon’s committee hearing.

“I know if Janet would have survived she really would have done great things in the world,” she said. “We believe her life had a lot of meaning and we think that meaning now is to protect the lives of other children.”

The Zilinski family said about 96 percent of public schools in the state are already equipped with AEDs, but noted some lacked proper emergency action plans for using the devices.

Will Gerhard, 19, also testified in support of the bill alongside the Zilinski family. Gerhard was 16 in the fall of 2009 when he suddenly suffered from cardiac arrest and was “shocked 7 times” with an AED, he said.

Gerhard, who was outside the Meadowlands stadium at the time of the cardiac arrest, credited the AED with saving his life.

“I’m here today as living proof (of the AED’s effectiveness,” he said. “I am just eternally grateful every single day … and it’s just so important to me that this law gets passed.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, (R-21), Westfield, said groups such as “The Janet Fund” will raise private funds to help reduce the cost of the device.

“You lost your daughter, but she still lives,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, (D-3), Paulsboro, chairman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Assembly committee moves electronic defibrillator in schools bill