Feb. 15—Ordinary citizens are being called on to help save lives in Sarasota County with the aid of a smartphone app that notifies users when a person nearby has gone into cardiac arrest.
The PulsePoint app, which can be downloaded onto a smartphone, shows users within a quarter-mile how to locate and use public-access Automated External Defibrillators and how to perform hands-only CPR. Early bystander CPR can double or triple the chances of survival, Sarasota County EMS Chief Carson Sanders during a press conference Thursday at Fire Station No. 16.
"This was a team approach. It required a commitment and implementation for many parts of the county and other departments," said Sanders of the app that currently is used in more than 2,800 communities nationwide. PulsePoint is a nonprofit organization.
More than 350,000 people have out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year, according to Sanders. He said it takes emergency personnel an average of five minutes to reach them.
Bystander CPR is performed about 48 percent of the time nationally, Sanders said, improving the rate of survival 12 percent.
Sarasota County started implementing the app-based system about two years ago beginning with hospitals and public safety communications centers. Through dispatcher-guided hands-only CPR education done in the community and hospitals, the bystander CPR rate went from 13 percent to 40 percent, Sanders said.
Sarasota County's survival rate from cardiac arrest improved to 13.7 percent in the field.
"If CPR is performed in the first two to three minutes, the chances of survival can double or triple," Sanders said. "The need for more trained bystanders and quicker intervention is the only way to improve these outcome numbers."
Learning hands-only training takes mere minutes with the PulsePoint app and AED devices acting as the director. It's a laborious but critical lifesaving skill best done in pairs.
Local businesses, homeowners associations and churches that have public access AEDs are asked to register their devices with the app. Off-duty firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement are encouraged to participate.
For the first time on Wednesday, North Port High School seniors were trained in hands-only CPR through a partnership with the Sarasota County School Board. All of Sarasota County's seniors will be trained by the end of the year, Sanders said.
"It's huge. The School Board takes on the persona of wanting to raise not just good students, but responsible community members," Sanders said. "We don't want them to keep it to themselves. We want them to go back and train their parents, train their younger brothers and sisters, whatever they need to make sure that they know that. It may be a family member they save."
Hands-only CPR is a graduation requirement in 38 states, but Florida is not one of them.
Next year, the program will move forward with eighth-grade and 12th-grade students and teachers who will make more lifesaving citizens available in Sarasota County.
"We are going to work together and continue to do these types of things as technology evolves. This is just our first step in building a better collaboration with the community."
While the app issues notifications of people having cardiac episodes, Sarasota County Emergency Services said they do not want people jumping into their car to help people. The app asks people within a quarter-mile to respond to the incident -- or less than two minutes away.
"The American Heart Association, along with others, have pretty much proven that in the first five or six minutes just doing the hands-only CPR is just as effective as the old CPR that we do as health care providers," Sanders said.
Sarasota County agencies assisting with the implementation of PulsePoint include: Sarasota County Fire Department, North Port Fire Rescue, Longboat Key Fire Rescue, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport Fire Department, Englewood Fire District, Venice Fire Department, and Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department.
To download the PulsePoint app visit: http://www.pulsepoint.org/.