Ore. fire dept. launches PulsePoint app to enable 'citizen superheroes'
PulsePoint alerts users to cardiac arrests within a quarter mile of their location, so people can provide treatment before paramedics arrive
By Matthew Denis
EUGENE, Ore. — The Eugene Springfield Fire Department launched the PulsePoint app Wednesday in hopes of "enabling citizen superheroes," the platform's motto.
PulsePoint's smart phone app alerts users to cardiac arrests within a quarter mile of their location, so people can provide emergency measures before paramedics arrive to take over. The alert is triggered by calls to 911 and the app gives the GPS location of a cardiac arrest. Pulsepoint also alerts users to the closest automated external defibrillators, which when applied, can shock the heart into beating again.
Although it's preferable, app users do not need to be trained in CPR as PulsePoint provides instructions on performing emergency aid. App designers want to make the process as easy as possible, which is why the app does not ask users to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"We want people to understand the importance of compression-only CPR," said EMS Chief Joanna Kamppi, who hopes spread that message along with use of PulsePoint in Eugene-Springfield. "We're working to enhance the survivability of sudden cardiac arrest in our community."
The survival rate for victims of sudden cardiac arrest has been steadily rising with improvements in technique and response time, Fire Chief Joe Zaludek said. The survival rate is about 50 percent in Eugene-Springfield, however Zaludek isn't satisfied.
"We'll be happy when we get to 100 percent," he said.
After introducing the app at a Wednesday morning press conference, Eugene Springfield Fire Public Information Officer Rachel Anderson and Training Captain Mike Barnebey provided a live demonstration of PulsePoint. After Anderson "called" 911 because "her husband" (a CPR training dummy) was having a cardiac event, Barnebey was alerted by a PulsePoint and intervened before paramedics arrived. He helped Anderson pull "her husband" from the vehicle and began pumping his chest. Soon after, paramedics arrived to take over.
For each cardiac emergency call, Eugene Springfield sends out two fire trucks, an ambulance and a fire chief. This crew will include either eight or nine paramedics, depending on the fire chief's certification. Compressing a person's chest takes significant energy, so medics rotate pumping the patient's chest every two minutes in order to maintain a proper beat. EMS crew members also need to keep airways clear, insert an IV, attach medical bags and complete other critical measures.
"It gives me chills every time I see how many people we send to save someone's life and how efficient they are," Anderson said.
Despite this large crew, PulsePoint users might be the most integral link in the chain of patient survival. Even with a quick response, it typically takes EMS anywhere from four to 10 minutes to arrive at the scene.
"Between that first phone call and the hospital, the first responder is the most important link to saving lives," Regional EMS Coordinator for PeaceHealth Jim Cole said.
For every minute that the heart is stopped, there is a 10 percent less chance of survival. Two minutes after the heart stops, brain death begins. Four to six minutes without blood and the brain begins to suffer irreversible damage. Anytime after this, there is serious risk of brain death or the loss of all functions of the brain even if the heart is started again.
"PulsePoint can take an untrained person and make them a superhero and a lifesaver," said Cole, a 35-year veteran paramedic.