Mountain View Voice

News - February 14, 2014

App to help heart attack victims

PulsePoint turns anyone into a first responder if there's a cardiac arrest nearby

by Nick Veronin

Sudden cardiac arrest? There's an app for that.

Health and safety officials from Mountain View and around the county are endorsing the local launch of the PulsePoint system — a mobile app that alerts users when someone nearby is having a heart attack, giving good Samaritans the chance to lend a potentially life-saving hand until emergency responders arrive.

PulsePoint functions as a direct link between individuals and local emergency dispatchers. Starting Feb. 14, the app's local launch date, 911 dispatch centers in Santa Clara County will have the ability to send out a location-based alert to PulsePoint users in the vicinity of a reported heart attack, according to a press release from El Camino Hospital.

"It's an Amber Alert for cardiac arrest victims," said Richard Price, president of the PulsePoint Foundation and the former chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.

The application comes with built-in guides that train people in basic "hands-only" cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) — which, Price said, can be learned in minutes and has the potential to make the difference between life and death.

"This is really all about response times," Price said, explaining that when it comes to sudden cardiac arrest, every minute counts. When someone's heart stops beating, brain damage can set in after about six minutes and without intervention in the first 10 minutes, the likelihood of death is nearly certain. Very often, he said, "the emergency response crews can't get there in time"

Basic, hands-only CPR — rapid, two-inch-deep chest compressions — can help prevent brain damage and keep a person alive until EMTs or paramedics arrive.

"Bystander CPR use is critical," Price said.

According to the American Heart Association, about 1,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the U.S. every day, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims receive CPR from a bystander. Given statistics like those, Price said he figures that the more people that adopt the PulsePoint app, the better. "We're pretty much putting a radio in everybody's hand, so we can dispatch people," he said.

Jaime Garrett, public information officer for the Mountain View Fire Department, said the department is looking forward to the PulsePoint launch.

"It really increases our community members' chances of survival should a cardiac arrest or a cardiac incident happen in a public place," Garrett said. "With any cardiac incident, the sooner CPR is initiated, the better the chances of survival. It gives our residents the tools necessary to be able to respond in a timely manner."

Garrett, like Price, recommended that everyone with an Android, or iOS device download the app. PulsePoint can be found in the Apple App Store and the Android marketplace on the Google Play site.

Anyone with the PulsePoint app on a mobile device will get a notification of cardiac events occuring within a quarter mile of their location at the time the alert is issued. The app's users will also be given directions from their location to the site of the reported victim, as well as information on any nearby automated external difibrillators — a device that uses electricity to restart the heart of victims of cardiac arrest.

Price, who developed the app in coordination with cloud application maker Workday, said the idea first came to him when he was on a lunch break during his tenure as chief of San Ramon Valley Fire.

He was in uniform, eating his lunch, when an ambulance pulled up outside the restaurant. Someone was having a heart attack in the building next door and he had no idea it was happening.

"It was a pretty shocking experience," Price recalls — especially considering the fact that he could have helped if he only had known. "That was the genesis of the app."

PulsePoint, which has already been adopted by municipalities all over the country, will officially launch in Santa Clara County on Valentine's Day, a date noted for its heart theme. The launch will be commemorated in the lower lobby of El Camino Hospital at 11 a.m.

According to Chris Ernst, a spokeswoman from the hospital, local politicians, health care officials and emergency services officials will speak at the event. "It's exciting," Ernst said.

Officials from the Mountain View Fire Department will also be on hand.

For more information on the El Camino event, go to ElCaminoHospital.org/CPRHelpNow. To learn more about the app and the PulsePoint foundation, go to PulsePoint.org.

Email Nick Veronin at nveronin@mv-voice.com

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