February 5, 2015 | by

App could help Dane County citizens save lives

WISC-TV (CBS) News Story

Dane County residents are being asked to download a new smartphone app that could turn them into citizen first responders when someone is having a sudden cardiac arrest.

It’s called PulsePoint, and two Madison firefighters have worked to bring the technology that’s currently operating in cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Cleveland to the Dane County 911 Center. When an emergency call for a cardiac arrest comes in, if the event is in a public place, an alert will be sent to those who have downloaded the app who are within one-quarter mile of the incident, at the same time that it’s sent to paramedics.

The goal is to crowd-source Good Samaritans, and get CPR help to victims before paramedics can arrive. The app provides instructions on how to do CPR in addition to directions to the person who suffered the cardiac arrest.

“We know there’s people out there with the training. We know there are people out there willing to help, and we know that they’re presently unaware many times of incidents that are close to them,” Madison firefighter Christopher Carbon said. “When you show up on scene and you do have bystander compressions going on, you immediately know the chances of survival are better.”

Last year, there were 547 sudden cardiac arrests in Dane County. The Pulse Point Foundation reports an estimated 325,000 people die every year in America from sudden cardiac arrest or roughly one every two minutes. Doctors say permanent brain damage or death can occur within eight minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest.

“Cardiac arrest, you know you hear that and you know it’s go-time,” said Madison firefighter Paul Britain, who worked with Carbon to bring Pulse Point to Dane County. “It’s happening all over, all the time.”

Evidence of how the app can work came last fall in Spokane, Washington, when a 911 call came in for a non-breathing baby at a ballet studio. The Pulse Point alert went out and using GPS technology, an alert popped up two blocks away on the phone of a local mechanic who volunteered as an EMT. He left the car he was working on, raced to the scene, administered CPR and saved the baby’s life before paramedics could get there.

“I thought that’s what it means,” Britain said after hearing about the Spokane story. “That’s what this project means to me. That’s how it works and that’s how it should work.”

Carbon, who also works with Meriter Hospital, brought the idea to the medical center’s foundation, which agreed to pay at least $20,500 to install, operate and promote the program for its first year. National estimates are that 55-60 percent of all Americans have had some form of CPR training. Carbon said people want to help and the app gives them the chance to do so.

“It’s sort of like somebody opening the door and yelling outside for help, but just having a larger radius and more reach to it,” he said. “I do think the willingness to help is there. The excitement here is that people can return to their normal lives. People can enjoy their families and enjoy their careers and enjoy the things they were doing before the (cardiac arrest) happened. So, I think that’s where some of this excitement comes about. That when it works, it can work really well.”

Carbon and Britain believe Wisconsin’s Good Samaritan law protects those who would offer help to those in need. Further, they say the app tracks phones or places that phones are rather than people, thereby protecting the privacy of those who have the phones.

“There is an option to respond, it’s not an obligation,” Carbon said. “At the end of the day, I think we would always say, doing something is better than doing nothing.”

The app is available on both Apple and the Android phones.