BOSTON — Fitness facilities in some states are preparing for new laws that require them to have automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on hand, but concerns still exist around liability for clubs in those states. This summer, legislatures in Illinois, Louisiana, New York and Rhode Island passed laws pertaining to health clubs and AEDs.

The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) worked with state legislatures to try to get Good Samaritan coverage written into the laws, said Kevin Buckley, deputy director of government relations for IHRSA.

“Through intense lobbying efforts, we were able to get language in a majority of these bills that were passed to provide meaningful liability protection. In New York, our amendments were not accepted, but we have a year to comply so we have a year to get that protection in place,” Buckley said.

IHRSA is urging state legislatures who are considering AED laws to provide “meaningful liability protection for all businesses wishing to deploy AEDs in their facilities.”

The urging is necessary because AED laws won't be limited to these four states, Buckley said. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan are some of the states and municipalities working on similar laws.

Health club owners that Buckley has spoken with have been divided about the desire to have AEDs in their facilities, mostly due to liabililty concerns. However, he said, “The one thing that seems universal is that they don't believe the government should be mandating the devices.”

IHRSA's official position is that there is no legal standard of care that requires that AEDs be in all fitness centers especially since 85 percent of sudden cardiac arrests occur in the home or at the hospital. Instead, IHRSA has urged that state and local governments increase the number of mobile AEDs in their area by equipping all first responder units with the devices.

Regardless of concerns from the industry, club owners must be aware of the effective dates in their states and go ahead and comply, said Buckley.

“I know states are having a difficult time figuring out the rules to implement the placement of AEDs,” he said. “But I don't recommend that they wait for the state because the effective dates don't seem to be changing. So start researching AED companies to see which works for you.”

The AED devices run from $2,000 to $3,500.

So far, each law requires just one AED in a facility. Since the devices are portable, Buckley suggests keeping them in a central location.

States in Which AED Laws Have Passed
State Effective Date Date Passed
Illinois 1/1/2006 8/12/2004
Louisiana 1/1/2005 7/12/2004
New York 7/1/2005 7/20/2004
Rhode Island 1/1/2005 7/07/2004
Weston, FL 180 days after passage 9/15/2004
States in Which AED Laws Are Pending
State Effective Date
New Jersey One year after becomes law
Pennsylvania 60 days after becomes law
Michigan One year after becomes law
Montgomery County 1/1/2005
Suffolk County (unclear what will happen)

Source: IHRSA