The Peel District School Board – the second largest school board in Canada — will soon be implementing live-saving defibrillators in all of its elementary and secondary schools, thanks to a $500,000 donation through the Mikey Network charity.

An official announcement is expected at a news conference in Mississauga at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Applewood Heights Secondary School.

Note: The press conference was postponed on Wednesday to a later date (yet to be announced) due to the inclement weather.

The board will be receiving 250 “Mikey” defibrillators from the non-profit organization’s Young at Heart program and will be placed in schools across the Peel school board over a three-year period.

It’s Mikey Network’s largest defibrillator donation to a North American school board.

At the announcement, Heathwood Homes, founder of The Mikey Network, will present a $160,000 cheque to kick-start the Peel program’s first year. Officials from the Mikey Network, the Peel school board, including director of education Tony Pontes, as well as Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion and Mississauga East-Cooksville MPP Dipika Damerla, will be present.

“We as a board, trustees and senior administration so much appreciate the kind donation from Heathwood Homes and the Mikey Foundation. This is the right thing to do and we’re so thankful,” Tony Pontes, the director of education at the Peel board, told CityNews.ca.

Currently, the TDSB – the largest school board in Canada — only has defibrillators installed in its secondary schools. With this donation, Peel will have the more units in schools than the TDSB.

Pontes said the defibrillators will be placed in elementary and secondary schools, as well as field centres and staff sites, including a couple of administrative buildings and the board office.

Seven units will be installed every month from now until December 2016. That works out to around 80 per year, Pontes said.

The first seven units were already installed in January in seven schools in the board. Scroll through the story to see the list of locations.

Pontes said the roll-out plan is based on the “highest priority first.”

“First we’ll start with any sites where we have just become aware that there is someone at risk – that will be our top priority.”

Schools and field centres located in remote areas – where the emergency arrival time would take longer – will be next, followed by secondary schools, any schools with specialized programs and then the remaining schools.

When asked why the defibrillators could not be installed all at once, Pontes said since there’s not adding extra staff for this program, there’s a “physical limitation on our staff, in terms of their regular duties.”

“Seven was something that we thought we could manage every month without requiring additional staff.”

The board will train a minimum of two staffers at each site – already trained in first aid — on how to use the defibrillator. However, Pontes said if one of the trained staff members is not available, any other staff member can follow the voice-activated instructions.

He said the units will be inspected on a monthly basis for malfunctions and to also make sure they haven’t been tampered with.

The Peel school board is the second largest school board in Canada with 205 elementary and 37 secondary schools serving 152,884 students, so for Pontes safety was a prime motivator for having the debrillators onsite.

“We want to make sure that both staff and students are safe,” he said.

“We are aware that there have been incidents across the province, and we also recognize that more and more children in particular come to us a wide range of medical conditions and we want to be prepared.”

“We just want to be ready in the event that there might also be someone in the school and we’re not aware of their condition, or that it’s a sudden condition that develops.”

Peel is not the first board in the GTA to install the defibrillators at all of its schools.

In a board report in October 2013, the York Region District School Board announced it would receive funding from the Ontario Defibrillator Access Act – which is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and run by the Heart and Stoke Foundation – to install them in all schools. However, it’s not known if they’ve already been installed in all schools. Calls to the board were not yet returned.

A public access defibrillator (PAD), also referred to as automatic external defibrillator (AED) – is a portable and user-friendly electronic device that can revive a person’s heart after a sudden cardiac arrest. It can detect potentially critical heart rhythms and administer an electric shock to restore a normal heart rhythm.

According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, when an AED is used in conjunction with CPR during the first three minutes of a cardiac arrest, it an increase a person’s chance of survival by up to 75 per cent.

Mikey defibrillators are currently placed in high-risk areas across Ontario, including Toronto and the GTA, such as community, recreation and senior centres, hockey arenas, schools, GO Transit trains and stations, TTC subway and RT stations, at Pearson International Airport and at police facilities.

“My mantra quite frankly is that there should be a defibrillator everywhere there’s a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers save property; defibrillators save lives,” Hugh Heron, chairman of the Mikey Network and president of Heathwood Homes, told CityNews.ca.

So far, over 250 Mikeys have been installed in various schools across Ontario, including at the TDSB, Halton District School Board (HDSB), Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) and the Limestone District School Board in eastern Ontario. Several units have also been placed in private schools.

In 2007, the Mikey Network’s Young at Heart Program donated $400,000 to the TDSB – the charity’s previous largest donation since its inception in 2003. All secondary schools across the board were outfitted with defibrillators – 138 in total — over a two-year period staring in January 2008.

“We thought it was the right thing to do to move into another area,” Heron said of the Peel donation.

“We’ve moved them into the Toronto District School Board, so the next launch area to go to was the Peel District School Board.”

Outside of the Mikey Network, defibrillators were donated by the Zoll Medical Corporation Canada in 2011 to 33 high schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board, in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Toronto EMS. In Toronto, there are 1,400 defibrillators in city-run buildings.

Also, in May 2013, Halton Region announced that it placed 116 defibrillators at its schools through the Ontario Defibrillator Access Initiative.

However, Heron said more could be done by the province to ensure that every public space has access to a defibrillator.

“I think the province should mandate it for everybody, not only the school boards, but everywhere,” Heron said.

“You need the premier to say ‘yes, make it happen’ … if the premier wants to make it happen, [he/she] can make it happen.

Pontes also agrees that there should be some legislation in place.

“There only needs to be one incident where a defibrillator saves a life and it pays for all of them,” he said.

“I recognize that there are many competing needs for legislation and for cost, so I appreciate that the Mikey Foundation is moving forward in the absence of legislation.”

Bill 41 or Defibrillator Access Act – which called for defibrillators to be mandatory in public spaces – was introduced by MPP Ted McMeekin in 2010 and passed second reading in May of that year. However, it failed to pass into law when legislature prorogued on June 1, 2011.

On June 3 of that year, the province announced it would commit $10 million via its Ontario Defibrillator Access Initiative to bring the live-saving machines to publically fund sports and recreation centres, as well as schools with high sport and recreation use.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says around 40,000 cardiac arrests occur in Canada each year, equivalent to one every 12 minutes. Its AED program has placed 3,000 defibrillators in public places across Ontario, saving over 40 lives as a result.

According to the Mikey Network, more than 6,500 people in Ontario, including children and teenagers, experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year. So far, 17 people have received a second chance at life with the use of a Mikey, including three students.

Defibrillators in Peel schools since January 2014

  • Gordon Graydon Memorial SS, Mississauga
  • Applewood School, Mississauga
  • Cheyne MS, Brampton
  • Judith Nyman SS, Brampton
  • Turner Fenton SS North Building, Brampton
  • Turner Fenton SS South Building, Brampton
  • Lincoln M. Alexander SS, Mississauga
  • Parkholme School, Brampton
  • Applewood Heights SS, Mississauga

Mikey Network background

The Mikey Network was founded in 2003 by Heathwood Homes and the Heron Group of Companies in memory of colleague Michael Hart Salem, who died in the summer of 2002 after suffering cardiac arrest while playing golf.

The network’s main goal is to place Mikeys (public access defibrillators) in many high-risk locations as possible.

Over 1,400 Mikeys have been placed in various locations across Canada, mainly in Ontario, through various programs like Mikey Young at Heart, Mikey on the GO, Mikey Cops are Tops, Mikey Kids and Mikey on Board, etc.

They are placed in public locations and high-risk areas like hockey arenas, community centres, senior centres, libraries, schools, GO facilities, police facilities, the Toronto Zoo, some ski resorts and places of worship. Click here for a list of locations.

Over 12,000 people have been trained in administering CPE and automated external defibrillators.