Downey & Houghtaling Bill Expanding Access to Defibrillators Advances in Senate

OCEAN TOWNSHIP - To protect the lives of New Jersey’s hotel patrons, Assembly Members Joann Downey (D-Freehold) and Eric Houghtaling (D-Neptune) introduced legislation last year that would require hotels to keep automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in their most populated areas. Today, the bill, which is named “Michael Anthony Fornicola’s Law,” cleared the Senate Health, Human Services, & Senior Citizens Committee.

The bill is named in honor of Mr. Michael Anthony Fornicola, a New Jersey resident who passed away on May 29, 2012 due to cardiac arrests at a hotel in Atlantic City. Any certified person can use an AED to analyze the heartbeat of a person in sudden cardiac arrest - and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock to help restart the victim’s heart.

“We need to do everything we can to protect the lives of New Jersey’s residents - and that means making sure that emergency medical situations are taken care of as quickly and safely as possible,” said Downey (D-Monmouth), who chairs the Assembly Human Services Committee. “In a dangerous emergency like a cardiac arrest, the presence of an AED can mean the difference between life and death. We owe it to the Fornicola family and the loved ones of any victim of cardiac arrest to make sure that everything possible is done to prevent this kind of tragedy.”

“Cardiac arrest can happen without warning,” said Houghtaling. “Unfortunately, it can be difficult for first responders to get to a hotel patron whose heart has stopped. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that these life-saving devices are immediately nearby in case they’re needed.”

Under the bill (S-3024), hotels in New Jersey would be required to make AEDs readily accessible to any person who may need to respond to a sudden cardiac arrest. Bed-and-breakfasts would be required to keep at least one accessible AED in each building on their property. All other hotels would need to maintain an accessible AED in each lobby, meeting room, banquet hall, and fitness center, as well as on every other residential floor.

The AEDs would have to be stored and maintained in a central, unlocked location that is known and accessible to employees and marked with a clear, prominent sign. Moreover, whenever a public or private event or activity is taking place at a hotel, the hotel would be required to have on its premises at least one employee or volunteer with up-to-date certifications in cardiac arrest resuscitation and the use of an AED.

Under the bill, hotel owners and operators, as well as hotel employees and volunteers, would also be immune from civil liability related to the acquisition and use of an AED. They would also be immune from civil or criminal liability related to the malfunctioning of an AED as long as it has been maintained and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s operational guidelines.

The bill previously cleared the Assembly by a vote of 72-2 on January 31.

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