Calif. Department Announces Free, Life-Saving App

It will alert anyone who downloads it that someone nearby is having a heart attack


Lisa Fernandez, Contra Costa Times | | Wednesday, February 15, 2012

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Perfectly timed to Valentine's Day, the San Jose Fire Department announced an application that will alert anyone who downloads it that someone nearby is having a heart attack and has called 911.

The smartphone and iPad app, found under the keyword search of "PulsePoint" is free for anyone to use, but it is highly recommended that those who download it are certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

San Jose Fire Chief William McDonald and Mayor Chuck Reed, along with others rolled out the app Tuesday at a news conference.

"It's the modern day equivalent of asking, 'Is there a doctor in the house?''' said Kim French, spokeswoman for the San Ramon Valley Fire District, where the app was conceived by retired Fire Chief Richard Price about a year ago.

About that time, Price was sitting in a deli, heard some sirens, and was completely unaware that next door, someone was suffering a heart attack. He was frustrated that if he had known, he could have rushed to help before the first responders arrived.

Here is how the app works: A fire department or dispatch center needs to be hooked up to PulsePoint. When a 911 call about a cardiac arrest comes in, anyone who has downloaded the app, will get a beep on their electronic device that someone nearby needs help, provided that the victim is in a public spot. It will show the location of the stricken person. The beep will stop once fire crews and paramedics arrive.

The San Jose Fire Department is the second department -- San Ramon Valley is the first -- to sign on to the project. French said there are 200 other departments have shown interest in the app. .

In San Jose last year, the fire department responded to 600 cardiac arrest calls.

The rollout of the PulsePoint application comes after Price's collaboration with the College of Informatics in Northern Kentucky, who helped with the technical side, and of his formation of the PulsePoint Foundation.

Since its inception, French said the app has been downloaded 50,000 times and actually used in five real-life situations. As French said, when someone is suffering from a heart attack, they are literally dying, and so if someone can pump on their heart before paramedics arrive, so much the better.

She added that people cannot be sued for being a Good Samaritan, but also advised those don't know CPR, shouldn't download the app. Still, even just pressing on someone's chest is most often better than nothing, she added.

El Camino Hospital gifted $100,000 for the start-up and operating costs associated with the app, and will cover those who want to download it throughout Santa Clara Valley.

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