PGFD to recruit ordinary citizens to save lives
Innovative phone app aims to improve cardiac arrest survival rates
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department is all fired up thanks to a groundbreaking phone application designed to improve cardiac arrest survival rates through bystander performance and active citizenship.
PulsePoint Respond is an innovative new location-aware phone application that empowers everyday citizens to provide life-saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Communities can now use the application to dispatch CPR-trained citizens to major cardiac emergencies where the potential need for bystander CPR is high, according to PulsePoint’s website.
“PulsePoint is an application for Android and iPhone devices that will allow both fire department and non-fire department public access people to get notified when they’re in the vicinity of a cardiac arrest,” Assistant Fire Chief Brian Frankel said in a phone interview. “We know through research that for every minute that a cardiac arrest patient is not receiving CPR, their chance of survival significantly decreases every minute. After five or so minutes, their chance of survival is less than 20 percent.”
In the last few years, Frankel said the fire department has done a lot to improve emergency response services for citizens in the county. Those efforts include reducing response times, working with public safety communications to increase what is known
as “suit times,” which is the time that somebody calls 911 to the time a call is responded to, he said.
“Our goal is to get people doing CPR as quickly as possible. If we can get people to do hands-only CPR prior to our arrival, then that’s giving that patient every opportunity for survival,” Frankel said.
One gap, however, that the fire department has identified is the gap between a time that a patient has a cardiac arrest and the time medical officials arrive on scene. Because the department can’t instantaneously be at the patient’s side, officials started looking for other resources, Frankel said.
“PulsePoint offered us an opportunity to kind of fill that gap,” Frankel said.
The PulsePoint mobile app, which is activated by the local public safety communications center simultaneous with the dispatch of local fire and EMS resources, alerts CPR-trained bystanders to someone nearby having a sudden cardiac arrest that may require CPR. The app is only activated if the event is occurring in a public place and not for residential addresses, according to the PulsePoint website.
“When we get dispatched on a call, PulsePoint will actually send activation to those people that are within about a quarter of a mile of the incident. Now, there are some caveats to that,” Frankel exclaimed. “It will only tell people that there’s a cardiac arrest in public places. So we won’t send like your neighbor, for example, over to your neighbor’s house because that’s private information and medically, we’re not allowed to release that information. Plus the fact we don’t want to put people’s personal information out in public.”
At the time of need, users that have opted-in receive a push notification accompanied by a distinctive alert tone. The notification is followed by a map display showing the dispatched location of the emergency along with the precise location of the citizen rescuer, providing for easy navigation between the two. Ultimately, PulsePoint aims to inform citizen rescuers where the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is located, in real-time and in context of their current location, according to the website.
In addition to the life-saving CPR/AED functionality, app users are able to view active incidents — including the current response status of dispatched units en route, on scene, etc. — and instantly pinpoint incident locations on an interactive map. A log of recent incidents and a photo gallery of significant events can also be easily accessed.
“If you’re sitting in a restaurant and somebody has a cardiac arrest and you may be in the back of the restaurant when somebody calls 911, you would get an activation on your phone that says, ‘Hey there’s a cardiac arrest patient at this location.’ The app shows you the exact location of where that patient is and it will also show you where the closest public-access AED is,” Frankel said. “If one is close to you, we would want you to not only go start CPR, but send somebody to get get that AED. In the app, eventually it will have pictures of where that AED is in the building.”
According to Franklin, the only other place in the region where the app is used by the fire department is in Howard County. Since its implementation less than two years ago, it has worked several times to actually change the outcome of patients and save their lives, he said.
Franklin said the department will not only do a massive public education campaign for the app, but start teaching hands-only CPR for county citizens as well. He said the goal is to help citizens become more aware of and engaged with the health of their community, a critical part of response efforts.
“Ultimately, we’re saving lives and it’s really having a positive impact in our community,” Frankel said. “I’m really excited about this opportunity. It’s really going to change the dynamic in Prince George’s County with our residents.”