February 9, 2023
PulsePoint: Accessing the Closest Help to Treat Cardiac Arrests
By James Careless, All Things FirstNet
Every day in the United States, about 1,000 people suffer cardiac arrests. Every minute that passes between a cardiac arrest and the administration of aid decreases their chance of survival by 10%. Clearly, the sooner that medical assistance arrives, the better.
Speeding the arrival of help is the goal of the PulsePoint Foundation (PulsePoint), a 501(c)(3) public nonprofit organization. Mindful that even the fastest-dispatched EMS and fire agencies can take precious minutes to arrive, PulsePoint recruits CPR-trained volunteers to step in when they are closer to the scene. This is possible due to these volunteers running the free PulsePoint Respond app on their smartphones (available in Android and Apple iOS), and living in jurisdictions whose local 911 centers have registered to forward cardiac-related calls to PulsePoint as the calls come in.
“Over the last 30 days, through PulsePoint alerting the nearest CPR-capable volunteers on their smartphones, these volunteers have been able to respond to cardiac arrest calls an average of two minutes and 17 seconds faster than EMS and fire crews coming from the station,” said Richard Price, President and Founder of the PulsePoint Foundation. “This significant time difference is simply a factor of PulsePoint being able to reach and send qualified helpers who happen to be close by.”
The Story behind PulsePoint
In addition to his role at the PulsePoint Foundation, Richard Price is a retired 33 year fire service veteran. Before he retired, Price was the Fire Chief in Northern California’s San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. It was the first agency to deploy PulsePoint. This wasn’t a coincidence. Price conceived of PulsePoint while serving there as fire chief.
“It came out of an incident where I was at lunch and heard a siren in the distance,” he told AllThingsFirstnet.com. “Eventually the engine pulled up right in front of the restaurant where I was eating. That’s when I learned that, next door to me, somebody was in a cardiac arrest, that they were unconscious and unresponsive. I was close enough that I could have made a big difference while the crew was on its way — I even had an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) in my car parked outside! — but I wasn’t aware of it!”
This revelatory experience, coupled with the growing number of AEDs in Price’s community, led to the creation of PulsePoint in 2011. “The PulsePoint Foundation was formed by our fire department after we successfully piloted a program in San Ramon Valley,” said Price. “Other agencies became interested in launching PulsePoint in their areas after they saw that we were having success with it.”
PulsePoint in Action
David Pendergrass is an emergency services supervisor and paramedic. “I’ve been in fire and EMS for 40 years, both career and volunteer,” he said. “I worked 32 years for a medium-sized urban department and now work in a rural department.”
PulsePoint has reached out to Pendergrass three times since he downloaded the app. The first time he was in a loud airport and didn’t hear his smartphone going off. The second time Pendergrass was having dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant and caught the alert. He immediately went out to the parking lot not for a cardiac arrest incident, but to treat an opioid overdose patient who had stopped breathing.
“The third time PulsePoint asked me for help, I was at home,” Pendergrass recalled. “There was a man about a thousand feet away in cardiac arrest. I had an AED in my trunk and I used it. The man’s life was saved, and he is neurologically intact.”
As it turned out, David Pendergrass got to the scene in less than two minutes, and a few minutes ahead of on-duty first responders. “Being able to assist the patient this quickly probably made all the difference in the world,” he said.
Life-Saving Results, Solid Support
Today, 4,436 communities belong to the PulsePoint network across the United States and Canada, and more are joining every day. On average, PulsePoint members are responding to cardiac arrest events two minutes and forty-eight seconds ahead of EMS/fire, just because they happen to be close by. This is why PulsePoint is being promoted by other organizations working to improve EMS responses and outcomes, such as RapidSOS.
To say PulsePoint makes a difference to the people helped by its volunteers is an understatement. “Your app gave my one-month-old son another fighting chance at life,” said Michael Garrison. “Your app gives me faith in humanity by exposing the heroes amongst us who don’t hesitate to commit great selfless acts.”
“The greater the number of participants, the greater the chance that you or a loved one might be saved one day,” said Steve Lopez. “I’m living proof that it’s possible to be brought back from the dead.”
The same compelling reviews and solid support are coming from first responders. “As I’ve experienced in my own city, PulsePoint not only involves our residents in critical time-sensitive medical emergencies, but also strengthens bonds in our community and creates opportunity for positive interaction with our emergency responders,” said Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, Past President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The Western Fire Chiefs Association has made their support for PulsePoint official. In the WFCA Resolution entitled, “PulsePoint Exclusive CPR/AED Platform -04-2022”, the association stated that the “WFCA Board of Directors recognizes and supports PulsePoint as the exclusive CPR/AED-needed notification platform for the United States and Canada and recommends its use and requests the adoption of a similar resolution by the IAFC, other Divisions of the IAFC, and other allied associations.”
There are four key points that need to be known about PulsePoint.
First: For PulsePoint to launch in a given community, that community’s 911 center has to register to send cardiac arrest-related calls to the PulsePoint Foundation. Only with this data can the Foundation’s PulsePoint Respond app use the real-time GPS locations of the volunteers’ smartphones to identify which of them are closest to the calls and worth contacting for help.
Second: Mindful that PulsePoint’s volunteer base includes off-duty first responders as well as CPR-trained citizens, the app comes in three versions tailored to different skill sets. For the general public, PulsePoint Respond is a 911-connected mobile app that alerts CPR-trained citizens to someone nearby in a public area who is having a sudden cardiac arrest. For first responders, PulsePoint Verified Responder has been created for medically trained members and while PulsePoint Verified Responder Pro is aimed at public safety employees. These two sets of users are notified of all cardiac arrest events in their vicinity, including those occurring in private homes.
Third: Through a sister Android/Apple iOS app, PulsePoint AED, these volunteers can also locate the nearest AEDs. “The PulsePoint AED app is used to build and maintain the community AED registry,” said Price. “This information is then shared with PulsePoint Respond users and with dispatchers during a cardiac arrest event. PulsePoint AED is not used to locate AEDs in an emergency, but rather to build the registry.”
Four: PulsePoint Respond and PulsePoint AED are both FirstNet-certified.
Register to Save Lives
One point in this story bears repeating, because it is vitally important: PulsePoint can only save lives in communities who link their 911 systems to its alerting network. “In every case, it’s up to the local government to choose to be part of the PulsePoint network by directly connecting to it,” Price said.
To learn how to do this in your community and to download the PulsePoint apps, go to pulsepoint.org.
Source: All Things FirstNet
Filed Under: News, Highlights | Tagged With: All Things FirstNet, FirstNet, Western Fire Chiefs Association, WFCA, PulsePoint Respond, David Pendergrass, Michael Garrison, James Careless, Steve Lopez, Tom Jenkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs, IAFC, cardiac arrest, CPR, AED, AED Registry