It’s a bit like calling for a Lyft. But instead of a driver, a mobile app that just went live in Sonoma County will dispatch an everyday Superhero to your side who could save your life.
The PulsePoint Response app connects CPR-trained citizens with victims of cardiac arrest, giving them a better shot at surviving a condition that usually is fatal.
The app aims to close a critical gap between the time when a cardiac emergency is reported to 911 and the arrival of paramedics.
More deadly than a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction in the heart that prevents it from pumping blood to essential organs. Keeping the blood circulating through CPR can mean the difference between life and death. Without blood circulation, a victim will die within minutes.
Few know that more personally than Dave Smith. With no history of heart problems, the Santa Rosa man collapsed one day in 2010 while jogging around Spring Lake.
Fortunately a passerby saw him go down and called for help. A nurse, Samantha Sharp, who was jogging nearby, heard the cry and raced over to administer CPR.
“If she hadn’t been there,” he said, “no doubt I would be dead or I would be brain damaged.” That close brush with death inspired Smith to give back. He got involved with Save Lives Sonoma, a nonprofit with a mission of training as many people as possible in hands-only CPR. The method involves applying rapid, forceful compressions on a victim’s chest. The simpler method removes the mouth to mouth component that makes some people squeamish and is endorsed by the American Heart Association, which maintains that it can be just as effective in saving lives.
People trained in CPR can voluntarily download the PulsePoint app and sign up to be responders. Registered volunteers will get an alert on their cellphone of a reported cardiac arrest that is in a public place within a quarter-mile away. Along with the alert they will get a map, an address for the emergency and an address and location description of the nearest defibrillator.
The app went live in Sonoma County last month, the latest in a string of initiatives by Save Lives Sonoma. The nonprofit, made up of representatives from fire departments, school districts, health providers, private businesses and other emergency responders in Sonoma County, offers CPR and first aid training and sponsors a program that teaches the life-saving procedure to seventh-graders throughout the county. They also secured a grant that enabled them to put portable automatic electronic defibrillators in 300 schools.
Getting the PulsePoint app has been a longtime goal. The group was halfway toward meeting their $40,000 fundraising goal when they received a windfall. The PulsePoint Foundation in December awarded Save Lives Sonoma and its partner, Sonoma County EMS, a grant worth more than $20,000 to implement the program and pay for the first year of operation. Sonoma County was picked for the first award from applications submitted by communities all over the country.
Having a cardiac arrest outside the hospital is particularly deadly; 90 percent don’t make it. But CPR, especially if administered immediately, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. According to 2014 figures from the American Heart Association, nearly 45 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims survived when bystander CPR was administered.