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New smartphone app activates citizen rescuers in a crisis

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Mike Duyck demonstrates the district's new PulsePoint app for smartphones that alerts bystanders when someone nearby needs CPR. Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue wants to know if you are willing to help save a life.

Specifically, if you are willing to serve as a potential citizen rescuer on standby — ready to jump into action and perform CPR in the event someone nearby goes into sudden cardiac arrest in a public place.

The fire district on Tuesday released a new PulsePoint smartphone application that alerts CPR-trained bystanders when someone within a quarter-mile radius is in need of their aid at the precise moment emergency dispatchers activate TVF&R’s emergency crews.

The app can be downloaded free from the Apple App Store or Android Apps on Google TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's new PulsePoint app alerts CPR-trained volunteers when their help is needed.

As the first fire department in Oregon to introduce this lifesaving tool to its 220-square-mile service area, the app uses sophisticated location-based software when someone calls 911 to direct bystanders to the location of the person in need of CPR as well as the nearest accessible automated external defibrillator.

Once the citizen rescuer arrives, an emergency dispatcher on the phone with the witness who called 911 will provide instruction on how to administer hands-only CPR by pushing hard and fast on the center of the patient’s chest. Meanwhile, the rescuer can inform someone else about where to find the nearest AED.

“We can’t stress enough how critical it is for people to start CPR before we arrive,” said Mark Charleston, TVF&R’s emergency medical services battalion chief. “Every minute a person in sudden cardiac arrest goes without CPR or a shock to the heart from an AED, the chance of survival goes down by 10 percent.

“Our crews are running about three to four minutes to arrive on scene once they are dispatched. If someone starts performing CPR, it ensures we have a viable patient and the patient’s chances of being resuscitated improve. Having people willing to assist us will undoubtedly save lives.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1,000 deaths a day or one person every two minutes. Survival rates nationally for sudden cardiac arrest patients are less than 8 percent, Charleston said. CPR can sustain life until paramedics arrive by helping to maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain.

“We are excited to bring this lifesaving tool to this region,” said TVF&R Fire Chief Mike Duyck. “TVF&R’s cardiac survival rates are some of the highest in the nation, and this technology is another way in which we can leverage people in our community to help save even more lives.”

Right place at right time

Only about one-quarter of sudden cardiac arrest patients receive bystander CPR. Without oxygen-rich blood, permanent brain damage or death can occur in less than eight minutes, Charleston said. After 10 minutes, there is little chance of successful resuscitation.

Those statistics hit close to home for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.

The fire district nearly lost a valuable member of its team last April, when several bystanders were unwilling to perform CPR until the crew from Fire Station 51 in Tigard arrived.

April Frezza, who serves as the agency’s information technology manager, was enjoying a bike ride along Southwest 72nd Avenue in Tigard on April 22, 2012, when she suffered a heart attack and collapsed.

While several bystanders surrounded her, none were willing or comfortable with administering CPR to the 50-year-old Tigard resident.

Luckily, Ralph Hering was running late to an appointment, when he drove by and noticed the activity on the side of the road.

Hering, who retired after serving 25 years with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, didn’t hesitate in providing hands-only CPR as an emergency dispatcher talked him through it on speaker phone.

“I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time,” Hering said. “If a sales rep at The Home Depot hadn’t taken apart a display to get me the item I needed for a project I was going to, I wouldn’t have been there. It was an act of kindness that delayed me, and I got to pay it forward that day.”

The fire district hopes more people in its service area are willing to step up as Hering did.

“I’m very excited about this app, and truly believe it will be beneficial,” Frezza said. “I have Ralph to thank for my life.”

Lay the groundwork

In addition to cardiac arrest incidents and placement of AEDs in the community, the PulsePoint app also provides a virtual window into TVF&R’s emergency response activity. Users can view active incidents and dispatched units to fires, vehicle accidents, technical rescues, hazardous material calls, news and other disasters. It also pinpoints incident locations on an interactive map and allows users to monitor radio traffic and view TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Bonny Brunning checks out the new PulsePoint application for smartphones during a press conference Tuesday at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's Tigard Station 51. The free app is designed to notify users when someone nearby needs CPR.

In order to keep the map updated of AEDs in the community, the fire district requests businesses, schools and other public sites with an AED to email TVF&R at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to ensure it is included in the PulsePoint database.

As one of only a dozen fire department’s across the country using this app, which was developed by the PulsePoint Foundation in San Ramon, Calif., TVF&R leaders hope neighboring agencies also adopt the new technology.

“Our hope is that using this tool will catch on in the region and that we can help lay the groundwork for others to join,” Charleston said. “Our hope is to cover the region with people who are willing to do CPR and help save a life.”

To learn more about the app or information about CPR training, visit or call 503-649-8577. Click here to watch Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's video about the new PulsePoint app.

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