Olathe & Southwest Joco

Saving lives in Olathe? There’s an app for that

Olathe Fire Department Division Chief Joey Heideman (left) passed out automated external defibrillators to Captain Jake Ring (middle back) and Firefighter Kyle Ledgerwood (right) as part of a collaborative effort with the PulsePoint Foundation.
Olathe Fire Department Division Chief Joey Heideman (left) passed out automated external defibrillators to Captain Jake Ring (middle back) and Firefighter Kyle Ledgerwood (right) as part of a collaborative effort with the PulsePoint Foundation. Photo provided

The Olathe Fire Department, in a partnership with the PulsePoint Foundation, has implemented an innovative program to help address the leading cause of death in the United States.

The CDC reports that heart disease and other cardiovascular complications are the leading cause of death each year in the U.S. According to the American Heart Association, more than 356,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur outside of medical treatment facilities each year, with nine of 10 such cases proving fatal.

However, individuals who suffer sudden cardiac arrest in a public place have a higher survival rate (39.5 percent) than those who suffer a similar cardiac event at home (27.5 percent), because immediate medical attention is often more readily available in those circumstances.

That immediate intervention is the most critical factor in survival rates, which is why the PulsePoint Foundation, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, seeks to empower CPR-trained individuals to be a more readily available community resource.

Working with trained emergency responders, the PulsePoint Verified Responder program, is a first-of-its-kind program that allows individuals to download an app that will alert them if a sudden cardiac arrest is reported within a quarter-mile radius.

The citizen version of the app launched in August 2017, but the Olathe Fire Department recently unveiled its own addition to this program, which engages its certified first responders with the potentially life-saving technology — even while off-duty.

The Olathe Fire Department’s version of the app also extends coverage beyond public zones and into private areas, such as homes. This is particularly beneficial, according to OFD Captain Mike Hall, who said that 64 percent of cardiac arrests in Olathe last year occurred at home.

Responders go through background screenings and must have completed certain training courses or certifications. Most are then provided with an automated external defibrillators, or AED, to use in response to nearby emergencies.

Currently, the Olathe Fire Department has 36 verified responders — 20 of whom have received AEDs.

“The beauty of this is that most of these responders are individuals who live, work, and attend higher education in the area,” Hall said.

Death or permanent brain damage can occur as quickly as 4 to 6 minutes during sudden cardiac arrest episodes, according to the Mayo Clinic, but quick intervention nearly triples the chance of the survival.

“A witness to this event must immediately initiate the chain of survival by calling 911, beginning chest compressions, or locating a public AED,” Hall said.

PulsePoint and the Olathe Fire Department encourage community members to get involved by downloading the app and getting trained. It literally could save someone’s life.

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