SAN RAMON, Calif. -- San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Richard Price was arguably the best person to have just yards away from a man undergoing cardiac arrest. Trouble was, Price, quietly eating his lunch, had no idea what was happening.
"I didn't know until paramedics pulled up in front of the deli where I was eating," Price said. "I didn't know someone needed help right on the other side of that deli wall."
The experience, and others like it, helped propel a mobile phone app that links those who need help with those who can provide it -- and puts the information, literally, at anyone's fingertips.
PulsePoint, a free, GPS-powered iPhone and Android app, alerts CPR-trained bystanders if somebody nearby is having a cardiac emergency. The app is activated by the public safety communications center, fire dispatch and EMS resources and is only activated if the emergency is occurring in a public place.
"Instead of relying on fate, PulsePoint is used to alert nearby Samaritans so CPR can begin immediately, and a (portable) automated external defibrillator can be (located)," Price said.
First rolled out by the Alameda County Fire Department, PulsePoint is now available to communities served by San Ramon Valley Fire, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, Fremont Fire Department, Alameda Fire Department, San Jose Fire Department and the Alameda County Regional Emergency Communications Center. The app can be downloaded from the iTunes store or Google Play.
The alerts, which are sent to all app users trained in CPR within a given range, hit devices the moment a dispatcher hits enter on their computer screen. Nearby good Samaritans are notified at the same time as responding fire crews.
"There is no better feeling than to pull up on a scene and see CPR already in progress," Alameda County Fire Interim Fire Chief Demetrious Shaffer said at a news conference Thursday.
Citizens can be invaluable in setting the "chain of survival" into motion, Shaffer said. Nearly 300 million Americans are trained in CPR, he said, yet the lifesaving procedure is under way less than 25 percent of the time when paramedics arrive.
By promptly alerting 911 dispatchers, performing CPR and using an automated defibrillator, bystanders can greatly increase the probability that a victim's life will be saved, Shaffer said. And with the instantaneous nature of PulsePoint, the amount of time saved by prompt citizen response could make the difference between life and death.
"This is arguably the greatest tech innovation for citizens helping citizens since CPR was first introduced," Shaffer said. "I am so proud we are able to leverage this technology to help save lives in the community we care so deeply about."