SACRAMENTO, CA — California clubs soon will be busy buying automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and training employees how to use them. Last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill requiring every health club in California to have an AED and for all club staff members to be properly trained in their use by July 1, 2007.

The bill provides “Good Samaritan” protection for gym employees who use an AED in an emergency situation. Staff will not be liable for civil damages except in cases of gross negligence or reckless misconduct.

Helen Durkin, director of public policy for the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), said IHRSA is generally against AED mandates but that this law is a win-win. The bill provides an adequate lead time for AED implementation and training, and Good Samaritan coverage is for both use and non-use, Durkin said.

“It meets the needs that the legislatures are trying to meet, but it provides a few areas of condition in areas that concerned us,” she said.

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, when a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease by about 10 percent for each minute that passes without defibrillation. A victim's best chance for survival is when there is revival within four minutes.

California Assemblywoman Fran Pavley authored the bill, and the California State Firefighters' Association sponsored the legislation.