LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Schools across the state are pushing to become heart safe. The Michigan Department of Education held a meeting, encouraging schools to become a part of the “MI Heart Safe School” program.

The program is meant to prepare schools on how to respond to cardiac emergencies.

They are encouraged to achieve the “MI Heart Safe” status.

“We have the training, we have the equipment, so that we can respond and save a life,” said St Johns Curriculum Director Mike Winkel.

Sudden cardiac death claims the lives of approximately 250 Michigan children and young adults under the age of 40 annually.

Winkel knows it’s not an issue to push aside, that’s why they became a MI Heart Safe School.

“We’ve had schools in the program since as early as 2014… It gives me a sense of security that we have people here that you know in a moment’s notice can respond to an emergency,” said Winkel.

Being Heart Safe means a school must have a written medical emergency response plan and a team that can respond.

This includes at least 10% of staff certified to use CPR and AEDs.

It also requires the school to have accessible and properly maintained equipment, annual response drills, and sports health screenings.

“A program like this where we are really walked through what we need to do, it’s kind of a no-brainer to do that to make sure that we are prepared,” said Winkel.

Health officials say the voluntary program can have significant impacts.

“The survival rate increases from 44 to 79% if the school has an action plan… Having an AED and people trained in CPR are not enough, you need to have a plan,” said Gwen Fosse with UofM Congenital Heart Center.

Winkel says parents can rest a little easier, knowing there is another safeguard for their kids.