2013: TVF&R takes lifesaving into digital age
Editor's note: This story is part of the The Times' special series, "Decade in Review." This series features three stories that helped to define each year of the 2010s. These can retell single stories that captivated readers of the time, a saga that played out across many articles, and even stories that were crowded to the margins by other news at the time but have made a lasting impact on our region.
These days, most of us are so comfortable with our smartphones that we barely think about them.
We take pictures, send messages, play games, watch video and browse the internet on these little computers we carry around in our purses and pockets. We customize our device to suit our personal needs and preferences, a bespoke platform for communicating and learning and entertaining ourselves that we take with us nearly everywhere we go. We've internalized that old Apple marketing slogan: "There's an app for that."
That slogan became a household phrase in 2009, and it wasn't actually trademarked by Apple until 2010. And, of course, it was a lot closer to those early days of iPhone 3 than it was to 2020 when Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue became the first Oregon fire agency to start using a new smartphone app called PulsePoint.
Starting in January 2013, the fire district began displaying its emergency activity — medical calls, active fires and more — on the app. Subscribers can scroll an interactive map to see where TVF&R is responding and what type of call has been reported.
But more vital than that is the connection between PulsePoint and TVF&R's baseline mission: saving lives.
Subscribers to PulsePoint can indicate on the app that they are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques. The app will alert them if there is an emergency nearby — namely, a possible cardiac arrest — where they could help by using CPR. The idea is that by empowering "citizen responders" throughout the fire district, lives can be saved if a civilian can arrive on the scene and begin performing CPR before paramedics arrive.
"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 at the time. "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%."
Adopting PulsePoint was an experiment for TVF&R, which paid $10,750 for the license fee. Smartphones were quickly becoming widespread, and people were growing more comfortable with the technology, but the app itself — the brainchild of Richard Price, chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District in the San Francisco Bay Area — had been on the market for less than two years, and no other Oregon fire agency was using it yet.
The smartphone business was booming, though — and PulsePoint was, and still is, simple and easy to use. Thousands of district residents downloaded the app. Other fire districts in Oregon, including Portland Fire & Rescue and Hillsboro Fire & Rescue in 2015, have since started using PulsePoint as well.
Also in 2015, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation into law that requires schools to teach students CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator, more commonly known as an AED.
Making AEDs more widely available has become a focus for Washington County fire agencies.
As part of a Valentine's Day promotion in 2017, TVF&R distributed 300 AEDs to firefighters, and in partnership with the PulsePoint Foundation, it started a Verified Responder program to alert off-duty firefighters to any reported cardiac episode within a quarter-mile radius.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.