June 12, 2014 | by

PulsePoint app turns bystanders into first responders

When it comes to helping a victim of cardiac arrest, it’s all about speed. PulsePoint, a life-saving mobile app, may not necessarily increase the speed at which first responders arrive, but it adds more legs to the race.

Santa Clara County agencies began using the PulsePoint app earlier this year with the goal of mobilizing CPR-trained residents and bystanders into becoming first responders.

The free app uses location-based technology to alert CPR-trained citizens if someone in their immediate area is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The alerted citizen can then choose to spring into action, find the victim and begin resuscitation until official emergency responders arrive.

“I can do an important job that the fire department can not do,” says PulsePoint Foundation president and app inventor Richard Price, adding that first responders “can’t get there in two minutes. I can sustain life until they arrive.”

Price, the former chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, conceived the idea in 2009 after there was a cardiac arrest incident near him that he was unaware of and could not respond to. The idea came just as the smart phone revolution was gaining serious momentum.

“This idea to push a message to a phone is fairly new, and the ability for the phone to know where it’s at is still fairly new,” Price says.

Price adds that there are associated time costs that people forget about between the initial 911 call and paramedics arriving to assist. Call dispatchers have to take information, firefighters and paramedics need to scramble to their vehicles, and responders still need to get to the precise location of the victim.

All of this needs to happen in nine minutes, after which Price says there is a 92 percent chance of death.

“In these first few minutes, you can really make a difference,” Price says. “You just think about these minutes as a [baseball] score, and you don’t want to start in a deep hole. You don’t win many games when it’s 9-0 in the first inning.”

While the app is available to all CPR-trained individuals, the real target audience is off-duty firefighters, nurses and other life-saving professionals. However, Price adds that all CPR-trained individuals are valuable, and simply being aware of the app can stimulate awareness of CPR and trigger more discussion, especially for younger more tech-savvy residents.

View the full story by Matt Wilson at San Jose Mercury News.