Pilot Program Leverages Off-Duty Professional Firefighters
Estimated reading time: 3-5 minutes
Fire departments evaluate use of AED-equipped off-duty firefighters to improve response to sudden cardiac arrest emergencies occurring nearby in public or private locations.
As a firefighter for more than 30 years, I have always felt public service extended beyond the shift. Most firefighters think of themselves as always on-duty—ready to help someone in need even when not wearing the uniform. Anyone in public safety will tell you the story of the accident they stopped to assist at, or the eventful plane ride with a medical emergency on board. My story begins in a deli. I sat eating lunch wondering where the siren I heard in the distance was heading. I was surprised to learn that the emergency was actually right next door! Someone suffering from a cardiac arrest just feet from my location. It was far enough away that I was unaware, but close enough that I likely could have intervened several minutes ahead of the responding crew.
I have always had an uncomfortable feeling that I could have made a significant difference in the outcome had I just known. Instead of listening to that siren I could have been performing CPR or using the AED (automated external defibrillator) I carry in my car. My saving grace is knowing that this tragic event led to the creation of PulsePoint. The idea was a simple one. Use mobile phones to alert nearby CPR-trained individuals to cardiac emergencies simultaneously with the dispatch of traditional responders.
PulsePoint, which is now in more than 2,500 communities, links directly to the emergency dispatch system. When someone suffers a cardiac arrest in a public place, CPR-trained citizens within walking distance of the emergency are alerted along with the professional responders. The thought being that initiating early bystander CPR, before professional first responders arrive, can double, maybe even triple a person’s chance of survival from cardiac arrest. Additionally, PulsePoint shows the location of all nearby public AEDs – so responders think about using them and know where to find the closest one.
Since launching in 2011, PulsePoint has focused solely on events occurring in a public place like shopping malls and schools, but these account for only 20 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA). The remaining 80 percent occur in a home or private residence. That is why a coalition of professional first responders, clinicians and researchers along with Philips Healthcare, are working together to improve cardiac arrest response and survival through an innovative program that alerts off-duty firefighters to nearby cardiac arrest events—in public and private residences.
Participating firefighters carry a professional version of the PulsePoint Respond app called Verified Responder. The app notifies these vetted individuals of cardiac arrest calls in both public and private settings when they are in the immediate vicinity - such as the business next door or the house across the street. These off-duty firefighters are equipped with a personal AED provided by Philips.
Critical 24/7/365 jobs such as paramedics and firefighters typically work three distinct shifts. With one shift on-duty and two shifts off-duty, off-duty personnel in many cases are closer to a person in need than the nearest on duty responder. By alerting these professionals to extremely time sensitive emergencies it is anticipated that collapse-to-CPR and collapse-to-defibrillation times can be reduced by increasing awareness of cardiac arrest events beyond that traditional witnessed area.
Cardiac arrest survival continues to be a serious challenge and we need to take advantage of innovative ideas and technology if we intend to save more lives. The Verified Responder program is a remarkable community project – the first of its kind in the US. The program may transform the way we approach this leading cause of death and provide a new and effective strategy for resuscitation.
PulsePoint is a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at pulsepoint.org or join the conversation at Facebook and Twitter. More than one million people have downloaded the free app on iTunes and Google Play.
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Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization. From interviews with industry giants to how-to guides and features powered by Philips data, our goal is to deliver interesting, educational and entertaining content to empower and inspire all those who work in healthcare or related industries.
Richard Price is the founder/president of the PulsePoint Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The foundation provides a suite of mobile apps designed to support public safety agencies working to improve cardiac arrest survival rates through improved bystander performance and active citizenship.