Health & Fitness

Know CPR? This app will tell you if someone nearby needs it

Using your phone to save lives from heart attacks

Representatives of Kansas City-area fire departments on Wednesday announced the launch of the PulsePoint mobile phone application on Wednesday at Union Station in Kansas City. The free app alerts users when someone nearby suffers sudden cardiac ar
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Representatives of Kansas City-area fire departments on Wednesday announced the launch of the PulsePoint mobile phone application on Wednesday at Union Station in Kansas City. The free app alerts users when someone nearby suffers sudden cardiac ar

If you live in Kansas City and know CPR, a smartphone app can now tell you if someone near you needs it.

It will also tell you where you can pick up an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on your way to help.

Officials from three metro fire departments will announce the Kansas City launch of the Pulsepoint app in a news conference Wednesday at Union Station. But it’s already available online and connected to the department’s dispatchers.

The Pulsepoint app works like this: When 911 gets a call from someone reporting a heart attack, emergency medical technicians are dispatched. At the same time the information is automatically sent to the app. People nearby who have the app and said they are CPR trained will be alerted. They might arrive on the scene to begin aid before the medical technicians arrive.

“If we’re running a cardiac arrest and you’re in the catchment area it will notify you that this is the address, this is where the AED is and (ask) can you respond,” said Tom Collins, deputy chief of the Kansas City Fire Department.

Pulsepoint was developed in 2010 by a California fire department and a group of programmers at Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics.

Their partnership led to the formation of a nonprofit foundation to spread the technology. Richard Price, the president of the Pulsepoint Foundation, said earlier this summer that the app is synched with more than 2,000 agencies and covers major metro areas like San Diego, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The app has already potentially saved lives in other parts of the country. In 2014, a mechanic in Spokane named Scott Olson was working on a car when he received a Pulsepoint alert that an infant had stopped breathing at a store two blocks away.

Olson, a part time emergency medical technician, rushed to the store and took over for a store clerk who had started CPR. By the time an ambulance arrived, Olson had resuscitated the child.

“That was a pretty dramatic story because it was a baby, but it’s a fairly common thing now,” Price said. “Somewhere between 100 and 200 people a day are activated by Pulsepoint.”

Pulsepoint keeps a running tally on its website that shows that more than 72,000 people have responded to about 25,000 cardiac arrest alerts nationwide.

Sudden cardiac arrest causes about 350,000 deaths every year, and causes brain damage in an unknown number of people who survive it.

Recent studies have shown that CPR saves less than 20 percent of people in that situation, but Collins said it’s still worth trying and the earlier it’s administered the more successful it’s likely to be.

Collins said he teaches a 15- to 20-minute class that gives bystanders all the training they need to perform modern CPR, which entails 100 chest compressions per minute, two inches deep, with no mouth-to-mouth breathing.

“You’re only limited by your strength,” Collins said. “But what I teach in my class is, even if you can only do 50 a minute and only one inch deep, that’s better than nothing.”

The fire departments now connected to Pulsepoint cover Johnson County and Wyandotte County in Kansas and Kansas City, South Platte, North Kansas City, Claycomo, Grandview and the Central Jackson County Fire District on the other side of the state line.

The agencies pay the Pulsepoint Foundation a $10,000 one-time fee to connect their dispatch systems to the app and then an $8,000 annual licensing fee.

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso

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