Gov. Lee Signs Smart Heart Act Into Law

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On May 21, 2024, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the Smart Heart Act, legislation that requires automatic defibrillators in schools and establishes response protocols for cardiac-related medical emergencies. The bill received unanimous, bipartisan legislative support.

“Nothing is more important than keeping our students healthy and safe, and the Smart Heart Act ensures schools will be ready to respond in the event of a cardiac-related emergency,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I commend the General Assembly for their commitment to Tennessee students in passing this legislation.”

The Smart Heart Act requires each public and nonpublic school serving grades nine through twelve to maintain an automated external defibrillator (AED) that is accessible during the school day and during all school athletic activities. Additionally, these schools must establish, review, and annually practice an athletics emergency action plan for responding to students who sustain cardiac arrests or other life-threatening injuries while participating in school athletic activities. The legislation also ensures that appropriate personnel on and off the field, including coaches, are trained in CPR and AEDs.

The Governor was joined by the National Football League, American Heart Association, and other members of the Smart Heart Sports Coalition, in addition to members of the General Assembly.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of Tennessee students. This bill ensures that schools will have the training and tools necessary to respond quickly and efficiently to a cardiac event. I am grateful to Senator Hensley for sponsoring this important legislation in the Senate.” -Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge)

“Thanks to this initiative, student athletes and those at school events will be safer. Senator Joey Hensley has done great work to ensure our schools are equipped with life-saving devices and trained staff in the event of cardiac emergencies.” -Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin)

“Equipping our schools and communities with immediate access to AEDs and people prepared to respond is key to saving lives when every second counts. The Heart Smart Act will further minimize risks for student-athletes, but also makes our communities safer and healthier for everyone.” -House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland)

“Over 23,000 children under age 18 have cardiac arrests outside of hospitals annually, and it’s crucial to be prepared to respond quickly. This new law ensures that our schools have the equipment necessary to save lives of our Tennessee children in emergency cardiac events. I appreciate the support of Governor Lee and my colleagues in the General Assembly in this important legislation.” -Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald)

“Whether it’s in the classroom or on the athletic field, student safety remains a top priority in Tennessee. The Smart Heart Act is a critical piece of legislation that will ensure an AED is nearby and easily accessible if a cardiac emergency occurs at a high school sporting event. It also includes important training requirements for coaches to better understand how to utilize the devices properly and efficiently. I was proud to sponsor this life-saving new law in the House, and I appreciate my colleagues for their unanimous support.” -Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka)

“The NFL is honored to join with our Smart Heart Sports Coalition partners and allies to celebrate the enactment of this crucial safety measure. Thanks to Governor Lee, leaders in the legislature, the Tennessee Titans, and the advocates who pushed this forward, school communities throughout the state will have the tools and training to better respond to cardiac emergencies. This is a victory for students, athletes, staff and visitors at Tennessee’s schools.” -NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

“This law equips all public schools in Tennessee to respond to a cardiac emergency anywhere on school grounds within minutes with trained staffed, maintained AEDs, and in coordination with the local EMS. There is only a 10% survival rate of having a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, and every minute counts. We believe this bill will ensure students statewide receive quality care quickly, and we are grateful for having a strong coalition across the state committed to the health and wellbeing of our students.” -Sarah Adair, American Heart Association

Launched in 2023, the Smart Heart Sports Coalition is made up of major sports leagues and leading health advocacy organizations. The coalition seeks to drive the nationwide adoption of evidence-based policies proven to prevent fatalities from Sudden Cardiac Arrest among high school students, including: clearly marked AEDs at or within minutes of each high school athletic venue, an emergency action plan specific to each athletic venue that is posted and regularly rehearsed, and education in CPR, including AED use, for coaches and other key personnel.

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