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PulsePoint: An Emergency Response App Worth Downloading


I received an email on February 6th alerting me that East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (as well as the other Contra Costa County Fire Districts)  has implemented PulsePoint, an App that allows people to stay connected and alerted during emergency response situations. The application keeps you up to date with ECCFPD and AMR activity in the hopes of saving lives during cardiac arrest–it also has many other benefits as well.

Since February 6, I’ve been playing with the App switching back and forth between CONFIRE and ECCFPD to see incidents happen in real-time. It’s about a 30-second delay. When an incident occurs, you get an alert on your phone as if you were getting a text–for example, last night I received an alert of a “collision on Lone Tree in Antioch” as well as a potential vegetation fire off of Highway 4.   Most of the alerts are labeled as “medical emergency” which will helpful when CPR is immediately needed as more people download the app.

The beauty of the app is it also has audio during an incident as you can stream the live dispatch radio–note, this does seem to “hum” a bit more than I prefer, but its a solid feature.

The Application allows you to select a District, in East County, you would want to select East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. Then you have many options of what type of alerts you wish to select–for me personally, I selected them all.  Here is the list.

  • CPR
  • Structure Fire
  • Confirmed Structure Fire
  • Vegitation Fire
  • Confirmed Vegitation Fire
  • Vehicle Accident
  • Expanded Vehicle Accident
  • Technical Rescue
  • Hazardous Material Response
  • News
  • CERT
  • Disaster

Here is a photo of the Contra Costa Regional Fire Communications Center (CA) announcing the launch of PulsePoint in several additional Bay Area cities.


Here are a couple screen shots of what comes up on your phone if you download the App.

iphone_screen2 iphone_screen1

Here is information directly off the Apps Itunes Page

PulsePoint empowers individuals, within covered communities, the ability to provide life-saving assistance to victims of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Application users who have indicated they are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are notified if someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and may require CPR. If the cardiac emergency is in a public place, the application uses sophisticated location-based services to alert citizens in the vicinity of the need for CPR. The application also directs citizen rescuers to the exact location of the closest public access Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The PulsePoint app (previously named “Fire Department”) provides a virtual window into select 911 emergency communication centers worldwide and real-time access to emergency activity as it is occurring.

Users can view active incidents, including the current response status of dispatched units and instantly pinpoint incident location on an interactive map. Curious as to where that fire engine or ambulance that just passed is headed? Is there an accident up ahead causing this traffic tie-up? Just tap the application to quickly find the incident location or plan an alternate route. A log of recent incidents and a photo gallery of significant events can also be easily accessed.

Additionally, users can choose to receive incident notification according to type when they are dispatched and listen in on live emergency radio traffic via this modern version of the traditional fire scanner.

Along with East Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, the app currently covers the following service areas:

  • Alameda Fire Department, California
  • Alameda County Fire Department, California
  • Erlanger Communications Center, Kentucky
  • Fremont Fire Department, California
  • Livermore/Pleasanton Fire Department, California
  • San Jose Fire Department, California
  • San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, California


At a Glance

  • The PulsePoint mobile app alerts CPR-trained bystanders to someone nearby having a sudden cardiac arrest that may require CPR.
  • The app is activated by the local public safety communications center simultaneous with the dispatch of local fire and EMS resources.
  • The purpose of the app is to increase the survival rates of cardiac arrest victims by:
    1. Reducing collapse-to-CPR times by increasing citizen awareness of cardiac events beyond a traditional “witnessed” area.
    2. Reducing collapse-to-defibrillation times by increasing awareness of public access defibrillator (AED) locations through real-time mapping of nearby devices.
  • The app is only activated if the event is occurring in a public place (the app is not activated for residential addresses).
  • In addition to the life-saving CPR/AED functionality, the app provides a virtual window into fire and EMS activity in the community, offering a unique opportunity for civic engagement and transparency.
  • The app is provided free of charge to the public. The supporting IT infrastructure is also provided free of charge to public safety agencies desiring to offer the application in their community. Since the app requires a connection to the local public safety communications center, it is only available where adopted and implemented by the local Fire/EMS agency.
  • Funding and support for the application is provided by the PulsePoint Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to guide, enhance and expand the reach of the app.

Why improving bystander CPR rates is critical

  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 325,000 deaths each year (SCA kills nearly 1,000 people a day or one person every two minutes).
  • Survival rates nationally for SCA are less than 8%.
  • Delivery of CPR is life-saving first aid, and can sustain life until paramedics arrive by helping to maintain vital blood flow to the heart and brain.
  • Only about one quarter of SCA victims receive bystander CPR.
  • Without oxygen-rich blood, permanent brain damage or death can occur in less than 8 minutes. After 10 minutes there is little chance of successful resuscitation. Even in modern urban settings the response times for professional rescuers commonly approach these time frames.
  • The American Heart Association estimates that effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
  • In April 2008, the American Heart Association revised its recommendations and encouraged lay bystanders to use compression-only CPR as an alternative to the combined rescue breathing and chest compression method. It is believed that this change will significantly increase the willingness of bystanders to perform CPR.
  • Sudden Cardiac Arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood vessels in the heart get clogged, preventing blood flow to sections of heart muscle. A heart attack, however, can lead to SCA by triggering an abnormal heart rhythm. SCA may be compared to an electrical problem in the heart, in contrast to a heart attack, which is more of a plumbing problem.
  • Fifty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. say they have undergone training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), most often due to work or school requirements. Most say they would be willing to use CPR to help a stranger. Most say they would be willing to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Eleven percent say they have used CPR in an actual emergency.
  • SCA can happen to anyone at any time. Many victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors.

Why AED location information is so valuable

  • An automated external defibrillator or AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias and is able to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. The use of AEDs is taught in many first aid and CPR classes, however no training is required for their effective use.
  • Publicly available AEDs are rarely retrieved and used because bystanders generally cannot see them and have no way to know if one is even available nearby.
  • Statistics provided by the CARES (Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival) Registry indicate that publicly available AEDs are used less than 3% of the time when needed and available. As a result, SCA victims are dying at locations at or near publicly placed AEDs.
  • Even if CPR is performed, defibrillation with an AED is required to stop the abnormal rhythm and restore a normal heart rhythm.
  • Technology has made AEDs simple and user-friendly. Clear audio and visual cues tell users what to do when using an AED and coach people through CPR. A shock is delivered only if the victim needs it.
  • AEDs are now widely available in public places such as schools, airports and workplaces.


The application has received several international awards including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) 2011 Award for Excellence, a Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) 2011 VITA Wireless Samaritan Award, a 2011 Computerworld Honors Program Laureate Award for Innovation, an American Heart Association Life Saver Heart Partner Award, and an IADAS Webby Official Honoree award for the Best Use of GPS or Location Technology. The Public Service Announcement designed to promote awareness and adoption of the application also received Telly Awards for Government Relations and Public Service.


Good Samaritan laws exist to protect those who choose to aid others who are injured or ill. They are intended to reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death.



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4 Responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I downloaded this app last night after your facebook post. I like it a lot.

  3. A great addition for the community to stay informed and help each other.

  4. Pulsepoint was developed by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District. Most of the development was accomplished by an IT tech employed with the district and help from a group of students at a college I can’t remember the name of.

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