Harford council head wants AEDs at all pools, county government facilities

In light of the recent revival of a C. Milton Wright High School athlete with the help of an automated external defibrillator, Harford County Council President Billy Boniface said he wants to see more AEDs available for emergencies.

Boniface plans to introduce a bill in February to require AEDs at swimming pools open to the public and private swim clubs, noting he has been urged by the parents of Connor Freed, a 5-year-old Anne Arundel County boy who drowned in a pool, to pass the legislation locally.

He also plans to put more AEDs in county government buildings.

An AED was available at the pool where Connor drowned in 2005, but no one was able to use it, Boniface said.

"It makes perfect sense, and three other counties have it in place," Boniface said Monday about the legislation, noting there have been attempts to pass it on the state level but that "ran into some roadblocks."

When approached by Connor's parents, Boniface said, "I was like, 'You know, this sounds like a good idea,' so we have been helping them, but we have been trying to get the municipalities to go along with it also."

Boniface said the county's municipal governments in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace would have to pass local versions of the bill.

"I don't think any of them have any problems with doing it," he said, adding using AEDs is no longer difficult.

Boniface discussed the proposed Connor's Law during a quarterly gathering of county and municipal officials held at the Bel Air Reckord Armory on Jan. 10.

"The thing is so simple," he said. "It's just knowing where to hook it up. It's pretty neat. It's come a long way since I was in the fire department 25 years ago."

Boniface said the units cost $200 or $300 each, which is well worth it.

"It's going to save lives," he said. "When you talk about saving lives, that's not really a whole lot of money."

Boniface also plans to talk to the county risk management department this week about installing AEDs in more county buildings, which doesn't require legislation.

He said some county government facilities, such as senior centers, already have AEDs. He was not sure how much putting them in all buildings would end up costing, but expects to know after speaking with risk management.

His legislative aide, Andrew Tress, said the AEDs would be at every public pool, including those at swim clubs and hotels, even though they are privately owned.

Tress said lifeguards are required to have CPR training and many Harford County Sheriff's Office vehicles are equipped with AEDs.

Boniface said he hopes to get two for the county building on Bond Street, with one in the council chambers and one on the second floor, Tress said.

The key role an AED can play was highlighted during a Jan. 3 girls basketball game at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, where a player suffered a life-threatening event and was resuscitated by police and coaches who used an AED on the 17-year-old.

She collapsed during the game and was rushed to a local hospital, where she was reported to be in good condition the following day.

The school system is not required to have AEDs, but it does in most of its buildings, Teri Kranefeld, spokeswoman for Harford County Public Schools, said Monday.

"All nurses, all physical educators, all health educators and all coaches are trained in CPR/AED," she said. "We are not required to have AEDs except for interscholastic sporting events."

"However, we have placed them in all schools in a location accessible to the public for after-school events," she said.

Harford County spokesman Bob Thomas said the county government does not have a policy on using AEDs.

"However, the Office of Risk Management is in the process of developing such a policy[,] which will then be reviewed by the Law Department before it is issued," Thomas wrote in an e-mail Monday.

"There are currently approximately 160 AEDs that have been placed 'in-service' throughout [county-] owned facilities, including a number of those with the Harford County Sheriff's Office," Thomas wrote.

He also said CPR training is provided to those employees who are required to have it as part of their job description.

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