Have dreams of being a real-life superhero? There's an app for that.
Jeff Olson was elbow-deep in a car engine when he heard his cellphone ping. He dropped everything and ran out the door.
The ping was an alert from an app he had on his phone called PulsePoint, which points Good Samaritans in the direction of a distress call. The app was developed by Richard Price, a retired fire chief who understands the importance of quick responses to a crisis.
"It sounded like an Amber Alert, you know how they come out, and so I looked at it and it said CPR needed and it gave the address," Olson told KXLY, the ABC affiliate in Spokane, Washington.
The alert Olson received said a young boy had stopped breathing just a few blocks away.
Since Olson was trained in CPR, he knew he might be able to help. He sprinted over to the address PulsePoint gave him, where he found the boy — just an infant — unconscious.
His mother was panicking because the baby had started turning blue.
Olson had been a volunteer EMT for Deer Park Ambulance, but he'd never performed CPR on an infant before.
In that moment, however, he knew his skills were better than nothing, so he scooped the little boy up and attempted rescue breathing. His efforts ended up saving the baby's life.
Olson's heroic act was the first to be directly attributed to the PulsePoint app and is a prime example of how helpful apps like it could be to communities nationwide.
Since its inception, several other Good Samaritan apps have hit the market.
One, which appropriately enough is called the GoodSAM app, uses GPS technology to locate rescue and medical professionals in the area of an emergency. Another called First Aid by the American Red Cross gives easy-to-follow instructions on how to handle most common first aid emergencies.
PulsePoint is distinctive in that it gets nearby civilians on the scene before first responders so that they can take action more quickly if needed.
For now, PulsePoint only works in communities where it's been implemented by the local fire department and/or EMS agency.
The Seattle Fire Department just announced that it has adopted the app and is encouraging residents to download it.
It's helpful to have basic CPR training if you plan to use it, but if you don't, the app does have a handy interactive diagram, complete with compression rate metronome.
"CPR today is very easy to perform and can be learned quickly in informal settings such as community street fairs, group training sessions, take-home DVD-based courses and even by watching brief online videos," says Jan Sprake from the Medic One Foundation, who has been working with the app since its inception, though Sprake is careful to note that these training environments are not the same as being CPR certified.
It's unclear how the fire department and PulsePoint will handle liability issues for the app's users; generally it's best to let trained professionals handle medical emergencies. In situations where time is of the essence, however, an immediate though untrained response may still be superior to no response, at least until the first responders can arrive and take over.
The PulsePoint app was originally designed to assist victims of sudden cardiac arrest, which kills nearly 1,000 people each day.
Without immediate assistance, people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest — basically, severe heart attacks in which the heart stops immediately — have a slim chance of survival.
If CPR is administered within minutes of arrest, a person's odds of survival increase dramatically.
How dramatically? According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients who received CPR from a bystander before medical help arrived were more than twice as likely to survive the incident than those who didn't.
Now, imagine there are 30 capable, volunteer responders within 10 blocks of the person suffering sudden cardiac arrest, all of whom have been alerted to the situation by PulsePoint or a similar app. That person's chances of survival just went through the roof, didn't it?
If every community implemented volunteer responder apps like this, SCA might no longer be a death sentence.
To get your local community on board, write your local fire chief, EMS office, and/or your local elected officials and tell them how crucial such apps could be in saving a life. There are plenty of potential real-life heroes like Jeff Olson in this country, they just need an app to tell them where to go.