CPR training and automated external defibrillators

Cardiac arrest can affect all adults and children without warning, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can save lives. Schools and kura should consider what steps they can take to be prepared.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Proprietors
  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Teachers and Kaiako
  • Health & Safety Officer(s)
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Requirement for first aid

First aid is a requirement under the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace management) Regulations 2016.

Health and Safety at Work Regulations 2016 – NZ Legislation(external link)

The regulations place a duty on a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to provide first aid. This duty is set out in Regulation 13 and covers the provision of adequate first aid facilities, first aid equipment and trained first aiders.

First aid training generally includes how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

While it is the responsibility of the school board as PCBU to assess the circumstances and risks arising from their work and school and decide what is appropriate, having CPR trained staff and possessing AEDs is highly recommended.

First aid for cardiac arrest

In a cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Without the timely restoration of a beating heart, there is an immediate threat to a person’s life.

In a cardiac arrest, a person’s chance of survival decreases by approximately 10% for every minute that the person goes without CPR and a defibrillating shock from an AED. The sooner they receive CPR and a defibrillating shock, the more likely they are to survive.

The first aid treatment for cardiac arrest is an easy 3 steps:

  • call 111 for an ambulance
  • start CPR
  • use an AED as soon as possible.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)

An AED, also known as a defibrillator, delivers a safe electric shock to try and restart the heart.

AEDs are very easy to use and increase the chance of a person surviving a cardiac arrest up to 44% (St John NZ). CPR temporarily maintains circulation of blood and oxygen until a defibrillating shock can be delivered from an AED.

Considerations for schools:

  1. Should my school purchase an AED? Have this discussion with your board and health and safety committee.
  2. If there is an emergency do my staff and students know first aid including how to do CPR and how to use an AED, if we have one onsite?
  3. Do we have a clear and simple plan to access the AED?
  4. Is the AED accessible to groups using the school grounds and facilities outside of school hours?
  5. Is first aid, including CPR and using an AED, being taught in my school to students? Is adequate training around first aid provided to my teaching staff and volunteers?
  6. Does my school plan ahead for EOTC activities and emergencies that could happen?
  7. Have we recently invited the local ambulance crew to visit our school and to engage with students?

Benefits of having an AED on a school site

A child or an adult may have a sudden cardiac arrest at any time. An AED is a life-saving device that can be used by anyone, even by untrained people. All that is required is to turn it on and follow the voice prompts. For those that are hearing impaired a step by step user guide is included with all AED devices.

Some schools have already taken steps to purchase or start fundraising efforts to purchase an AED. The decision to purchase an AED is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees and should be considered by reviewing the school’s health and safety policies and relevant workplace regulations.

Many schools provide additional services to the community, such as facilities for meetings, sports, and support for people during natural disasters and civil emergencies. As part of your school planning for these services and events you should consider the benefits of your school holding an AED.

Schools should have staff trained in CPR and AED use

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, all schools must have staff trained in first aid, which generally includes how to perform CPR and use an AED. For other members of staff who would benefit from training, practical training is considered best practice. However other training options, such as video-based training and e-learning, can facilitate a basic understanding of CPR and AED use.

Schools should have a clear and simple plan to access their AED (if one is on site)

Your school’s AED should be in a known place that is central and easily accessible in an emergency. The physical location of the AED in your school should be clearly marked with standard AED signage. There also needs to be a known process for getting the AED if someone collapses.

In New Zealand, apps such as AED Locations are now being used to map the location of AEDs nationwide. We recommend that AEDs be registered here. These apps are freely available to anyone with a smartphone.

Teaching students first aid

First aid, including CPR and defibrillation, may be taught to students as part of health education.

Schools may choose to include CPR training as part of health and physical education. Training in first aid including CPR is known to increase bystander CPR rates and to improve the outcomes of people who have a cardiac arrest. CPR is a very easy skill and children readily share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others, and can be taught at age-appropriate stages. Your local ambulance service or first aid training provider may be able to assist.

Teaching our tamariki to be lifesavers – St John(external link)

Community CPR training – Wellington Free Ambulance(external link)

Benefits of teaching CPR in schools

The policy statement Kids Save Lives has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and supported by resuscitation councils worldwide, including the New Zealand Resuscitation Council.

  • WHO believe that by teaching CPR to all children over age 12 for just 2 hours per year, cardiac arrest survival rates would improve and in turn lead to improved global health (Kids Save Lives, 2015).
  • There are more than 2,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in New Zealand every year, of which only approximately 15% will survive (St John, 2016).

Therefore, training in first aid including CPR can be considered an essential life skill because it can help save lives.

Education outside the classroom activities and emergencies

Taking students outside the classroom to learn has been part of schooling in New Zealand for generations. Education outside the classroom (EOTC) continues to be a key component of school life in New Zealand. EOTC can range from a museum or marae visit to a sports trip or a school camp.

Schools are expected to have policies in place about a range of events including all major issues such as traumatic incidents. As part of this planning process, schools are also expected to have undertaken a risk assessment of all EOTC events before actually taking students to any event.

A traumatic incident during an EOTC activity can be a stressful experience for a school and its community because it is usually sudden and unexpected. A planned response with procedural steps to follow can do much to lessen the impact and accelerate recovery.

When finalising your procedures for off-site EOTC events, the person in charge of the EOTC activity should check with the EOTC provider what their emergency processes are, ask if staff are trained in first aid and inquire if there will be an AED readily available.

When school staff, volunteers and students arrive onsite they should be given a health and safety induction which should include emergency processes and where any first aid supplies (including AED) are kept.

More information about safety management planning for EOTC events is available on TKI. 

Education outside the classroom guidelines – TKI(external link)

Emergency service visits to schools

You may like to consider inviting your local ambulance crew or other emergency service personnel to visit your school or speak at assembly. Many schools use such visits as a method to engage students and the community in their local curriculum.

The emergency services could provide engaging contexts for learning areas like health and physical education, social studies and science as well as the development of key competencies. Students could be empowered to act in an emergency.

Community stations and AED locations

Across New Zealand there are thousands of AEDs that are available for use. Some of these are located at private businesses, schools or at defibrillator stations in community hubs. Community AEDs may be installed in an outdoor secured cabinet with secured access.

They may be registered with 111 or an ambulance service, who ensure the AED is able to be used when needed. When 111 is called, the operator can alert the caller that there is an AED located nearby.

AEDs are placed in areas where members of the community gather such as around libraries, schools, shops and sports grounds. Providing 24/7 AED access in public places increases the chances of survival for people who have a cardiac arrest. For every minute defibrillation is delayed, the chances of survival drops by around 10%.

Locations – AED locations(external link)


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