Harford council passes law requiring AEDs at swimming pools

The Harford County Council eagerly approved a local version of "Connor's Law" Tuesday night that requires all swimming pools to have automatic external defibrillators, commonly known as AED.

Thomas and Debbie Freed, the parents of 5-year-old Connor Freed, who drowned in a pool in 2005 after no one was able to use a defibrillator, spoke at the meeting in support of the bill.

They have been trying to get the bill passed on a state level and said Harford would be the third county, after Anne Arundel and Montgomery, to pass the law.

"I know it would have saved my son's life and I know one of the defibrillators we helped get in Anne Arundel County helped save the life of a young child there. So it works," Thomas Freed told the council.

Debbie Freed said lifeguards at the country-club pool where Connor drowned said they were not allowed to use the defibrillator on the premises. Now, all lifeguards are trained to use the devices.

"I know he would be alive if an AED had been used," she said about her son, noting that an AED must be used within three minutes of someone going into cardiac arrest.

She said drowning is the leading cause of death for children age 4 and younger, and the second leading cause of death for older children. Ten children lose their lives to drowning daily, she said.

Boniface said all council members and council staff were trained on the device the other day.

"We're going to continue a little bit at a time getting them in all the buildings," he said, making a reference to the recent death of his own son, Ben, in a vehicle accident on the Boniface farm.

"I know all too well you're trying to channel something terrible that has happened in your life into something positive," he told the Freeds.

McMahan said thanks to the training, council members are no longer afraid to use the device in "any shopping center, any transportation center or anywhere else."

"The hardest thing is to get somebody to take it off the wall," he said.

McMahan later talked about the case of the Bakersfield, Cal., woman who drew national attention when she died Feb. 26 at a senior living facility after an employee there refused to obey a 911 dispatcher who was trying to get her to perform CPR on the woman who died.

"I did not want to find out the same way what we all found over the weekend about that situation. Since we have had a number of assisted living homes in our area, I asked [health department director] Ms. [Susan] Kelly to find out what the protocol was in regard to the assisted living in our county and I'm waiting to hear back from her," McMahan said. "I found it just absolutely unbelievable that someone would stand by and not offer help to that lady in California."

Shrodes also called the bill "a no-brainer" and said it is a "really good law."

Havre de Grace City Councilman David Glenn, who was in the audience at Tuesday's county council meeting, commended the council for passing Connor's Law and said the City of Havre de Grace hopes to pass a similar law.

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