Calling all heroes: Fire Dept app could help save lives
By Paul Ridden
January 26, 2011
Around three hundred thousand people in the U.S. are said to suffer sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year, so with survival rates standing at less than eight percent and brain death taking a grip just four to six minutes after an attack, every second counts. The San Ramon Valley Fire Department is therefore calling on members of the public who have been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to help. A new location-aware iPhone app has been developed that notifies registered users within the 155 square-mile (401.5 sq km) San Ramon Valley, California region when their skills are needed to save lives.
If a cardiac emergency happens in a publicly accessible location, the freely available iPhone app developed by the San Ramon Fire Department will use the smartphone's GPS capabilities to identify registered users trained in CPR in the vicinity and let them know that someone nearby needs help. It will also direct the local heroes to the exact location of the closest public access Automated External Defibrillator.
"The creation and deployment of a smartphone application that notifies trained bystanders of nearby cardiac arrest events completely redefines the traditional meaning of a witnessed arrest by expanding awareness over a much broader area," said Fire Chief Richard Price. "Providing actionable, real-time information during a sudden cardiac arrest emergency, including mapping the victim and rescuer locations, along with the nearest AED locations, is the quintessential use of GPS technology on a mobile phone today."
Users are offered the choice of incident notification by type and can also use the app as "a virtual window into San Ramon Valley's 9-1-1 dispatch center." They can also use the app to view the current status of incident alerts, including information about when the professionals are due to arrive at the scene. The Fire Department also utilizes the technology to communicate with over 700 members of the Community Emergency Response Team.
A limited version of the app has been in public testing for the past six months with more than 22,000 iPhone users, and has now been released as full version 2.0.3 to the iTunes store. It will run on any iPhone or iPad running iOS 4.2 or later.
The initiative has been applauded by the American Heart Association. "Fast action can save a life when someone collapses during a cardiac arrest," said Dr. Junaid Khan. "CPR can double or triple a person's chance of survival." It's also received a warm welcome from numerous other organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Contra Costa Emergency Medical Services and the National EMS Management Association.
For those who don't live in the area of coverage, you can let your curiosity get the better of you and download the app to listen in to what's going on. However, with Chief Price confirming that the technology is to be shared with other public safety agencies around the globe, similar initiatives may soon pop up in your area too.