August 6, 2014 | by

LA County Fire Dept. cardiac arrest app to ‘crowd-source good Samaritans’

Hoping to turn regular cellphone-toting Angelenos into rapid responders, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has linked its dispatch system to a cellphone app that will notify CPR-trained good Samaritans when someone in a public place nearby is having a cardiac arrest.

The app, called PulsePoint, sends Fire Department alerts out to mobile phone users at the same time that dispatchers send the official message out to emergency crews — increasing the possibility that a cardiac arrest victim can get life-saving CPR from a bystander while medical responders are still on the way, department officials said Wednesday.

The program also provides cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructions and the location of defibrillators nearby.

“Every person who knows CPR, downloads this app and activates it has their own fire department radio in their pocket,” said Fire Department medical director Dr. Franklin Pratt. “They become the first first responder.”

Enlisting nearby citizens who are prepared to deliver “hands-only CPR” — hard and fast compressions in the center of the chest — could greatly improve survival rates among cardiac arrest sufferers, Los Angeles County fire officials said.

Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby, who was on hand for a press event in Inglewood debuting the system, told The Times that the average emergency crew response time for his department was 5 minutes countywide, and sometimes longer in lower-density, far-flung communities such as Lancaster and Palmdale.

“If a citizen can begin CPR before the paramedics arrive, it increases survival,” he said.

Medical director Pratt said that when the heart stops beating, the opportunity for survival with a good quality of life diminishes after about 3 or 4 minutes because of injury to the brain and changes in the body that make the heart less responsive. But in the first couple of minutes after cardiac arrest there’s still oxygen in the blood, he added. Immediate CPR can keep that oxygen flowing to the brain.

View the full story by Eryn Brown at the Los Angeles Times.