Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical reminding public about potentially life-saving app in cases of cardiac arrest

photo by: Douglas County

The PulsePoint Respond app.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical is ramping up its efforts to alert the public to a tool that can be life-saving in cases of cardiac arrest.

The tool is PulsePoint Respond, a 911-connected mobile app that’s available free to anyone. It works like this: When 911 is alerted to a cardiac arrest incident in a public space, a PulsePoint alert goes out to app users within a quarter-mile of the emergency, then guides users to the precise location of the incident. The hope is that someone nearby will be able to respond to the scene potentially more quickly than first responders, said LDCFM Chief Rich Llewellyn, who noted that every second is crucial in such a situation.

“Surviving cardiac arrest without any (bodily) damage decreases by 7 to 10% for every minute that CPR is not applied,” Llewellyn told Douglas County commissioners last week. “By the time you hit 10 minutes, you’re in the range of 70 to 100% likelihood that you’re not going to survive without some kind of deficit.”

LDCFM launched a soft rollout of the app in 2021, and there are now roughly 2,000 users of the app in Douglas County, according to information provided by the department. The app, which according to its website is available in different versions for members of the public and for medical professions, also sends alerts for other medical incidents, but the focus of the recent presentation was on cardiac arrest alerts.

photo by: Douglas County

Local emergency notifications displayed by the PulsePoint 911-connected mobile app.

“It’s important for us that we give folks a chance to live longer,” Llewellyn said. “If we could have a firefighter on every street corner and somebody trained in CPR that could be dispatched, that would be great. We’d have folks giving CPR any time of the day or night. But communities cannot afford that. It’s not realistic.”

During his presentation, Llewellyn displayed a graphic showing that the number of cardiac arrest incidents in Douglas County has climbed from 160 in 2019 to 238 last year.

photo by: Douglas County

Douglas County’s cardiac arrest incident count since 2019.

“We respond to around 20 cardiac arrest incidents per month,” he said.

Llewellyn said that he had long been aware of the app and that he is an acquaintance of Rich Price, the app’s founder and president of the PulsePoint Foundation.

“I’ve seen a lot of instances where people have responded to cardiac arrest events because they got notification through PulsePoint,” Llewellyn said. “When (Price) first talked about PulsePoint and dispatching civilians to cardiac arrest events, folks thought that he was a little bit crazy. But he forged ahead and got the app developed, and it started to pick up some steam.”

Kevin Joles, LDCFM chief of the emergency medical division, said that app users who are not trained in administering CPR shouldn’t fret, as the app provides instructions.

“CPR is not a difficult task,” Joles told the Journal-World. “The more you’re educated on it, the more comfortable you’ll feel.”

Commissioner Shannon Reid agreed, saying that the app “gives some pretty good and clear instructions and helps alleviate the notion” that resuscitation efforts are highly complex. And Commission Chair Karen Willey said she recently participated in a ride-along with LDCFM and that the crew expressed enthusiasm about the app.

“We’re in a good spot to be able to share the app’s usefulness within the community,” Joles said. “And we’re late to the party on this. There are agencies that I came from that have been using the app for 10 years.”

Joles said that the department is looking to bolster its CPR training efforts throughout the community and will be targeting public events, such as area festivals and sporting events, for those offerings. He said a training event could eventually be scheduled at Allen Fieldhouse.

The PulsePoint Respond app is available at no cost from wherever you download your mobile apps.


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