Smartphone apps often fail to live up to their hype, but emergency responders in Eugene and Springfield are promoting an especially effective one that all of us should consider adding to our mobile devices. It could mean the difference between life and death for someone nearby.

The metro area recently became linked to PulsePoint, a free app for Android and iOS distributed by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit working with public safety agencies around the nation to improve response times for heart attack victims.

The concept is simple but ingenious: When 911 dispatchers receive an emergency call for someone experiencing cardiac arrest in a public location in the region, an alert and GPS location go out to PulsePoint users within a quarter mile. The goal is to have app users head to the scene and provide CPR until paramedics arrive and take over.

Close to 60 percent of Americans have received CPR training, but most haven’t had the occasion to use it. This app puts that untapped resource to use. You don’t have to be trained in CPR to help, though — the app provides instructions and a beat to follow as you administer chest compressions.

The survival rate declines by 10 percent every minute without treatment after a cardiac arrest, according to EMS Chief JoAnna Kamppi, who recently joined local officials in a demonstration of the app at the Emergency Services Training Center. The average EMS response time for a heart attack is four to seven minutes, so assistance from a PulsePoint could make all the difference for victims and their loved ones.

PulsePoint keeps a running tally of how often the app is activated for a response and how many people answer the call. The total for activations nationwide is close to 60,000, with more than three times as many responding to the call for help.

The app is saving lives. One such case occurred this spring at a Walmart pharmacy in Cookeville, Tenn. A shopper collapsed from cardiac arrest, and a Texas firefighter in the area on a camping trip received a PulsePoint alert while walking through the parking lot. He rushed inside, found the shopper and his distraught wife and administered CPR until more help arrived. The victim survived and credits the app — and its user – with saving his life.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs has endorsed the app, noting that sudden cardiac arrest is a “community-based issue that requires a community-based response.” The group points out that there is no other medical situation where the public can play such a critical role.

Eugene Springfield Fire Chief Joe Zaludek says the district already has improved the survival rate by 50 percent, and officials hope the app can bring the rate closer to 100 percent. The fact that local residents are downloading it is an encouraging sign, and one that speaks well of our community’s character. Cardiac arrest is survivable — especially when fellow residents are there to help.

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