Pierce County Fire Departments Launch “PulsePoint Respond”

Deaths resulting from sudden cardiac arrest peak in December and January, according to the American Heart Association. A convenient phone app may help save lives.

Thanks to a phone app, this dummy could be you receiving CPR from a volunteer first responder until medics arrive.
Thanks to a phone app, this dummy could be you receiving CPR from a volunteer first responder until medics arrive. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News 

In collaboration with South Sound 911, the Key Peninsula Fire Department and 18 other fire and rescue agencies in Pierce County deployed PulsePoint Respond— a free cell phone app that alerts subscribers within “walking distance” of a sudden cardiac arrest that someone needs CPR immediately. The program, already in use by fire departments in neighboring Kitsap County and many others nationwide, rolled out Dec. 3 in Pierce County.

KPFD Public Information Officer Anne Nesbit set the stage in early December with a 911 call reporting a person collapsed on the floor of the South Hill Mall in Puyallup during a mock cardiac emergency. It was all part of a coordinated media event to help spread the word using a live demonstration of how this technology works in real time.

Within seconds of 911 dispatch, subscriber cell phones nearby sounded the alert. With local television crews in place and cameras rolling, volunteer Larry Rucker with Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One received the alert on his phone and went into action, performing CPR on the dummy “to keep the blood circulating” until medics from Central Pierce County Fire & Rescue arrived to take over.

Meanwhile, Chasie Deyer, an ER nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup on her day off, happened to be in the mall with her family that morning when the alert sounded from the PulsePoint app on her cell phone.

“I could hardly believe it was happening,” Deyer said. “I looked at my mother-in-law and said, ‘There is a cardiac emergency. I’ve got to go now.’ ” She pressed “respond” on her phone and the PulsePoint app led her in the direction of the mock event where she saw a crowd gathering.

Organizer Kris McNamar of South Sound 911 was surprised but thrilled to see Deyer respond and asked how she had heard about the app.

“I talk to a lot of medics and firefighters in the ER and they told me about the phone app going into use today, so I downloaded it this morning,” Deyer said, laughing. “I’m relieved it was only a drill.”

Julie Offner, of Gig Harbor, a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest, was on the scene to share her personal story with reporters.

Offner had been out ringing doorbells last March to encourage support for Peninsula School District’s capital bond measure and suddenly fell over. Her canvassing partner saw Offner fall and shouted to their driver to call 911 right away.

“She ran up two flights of stairs and started CPR on me immediately and kept it going until Medic One showed up,” Offner said. “That saved my life and most likely saved the quality of my life.”

Nesbit said she is pleased about the roll-out of the PulsePoint app and how simple it is to use. In Pierce County the CPR response feature is only activated on devices within a quarter mile radius of the victim and only in public places. On the KP, that might be places like stores at Lake Kathryn Village, the Key Center shopping area, the library or the KP Civic Center.

“Ours is one community that really works together to help people,” Nesbit said.

PulsePoint users may select other types of notifications within the app to be alerted whenever there is a car accident, downed power lines or a house fire. Nesbit said the app doesn’t give the specific address of an incident, due to privacy concerns, but will inform users of the nature of response, the type and number of units dispatched and the general vicinity.

“Almost immediately after the release of the phone app, I saw people on social media posting screen shots of PulsePoint notifications, sharing news of a collision blocking the road, for example on KP Highway and 92nd Street NW,” Nesbit said.

“It’s very helpful for us as a department that people are already being alerted,” she said. “When it’s dark, rainy and cold outside, it’s great to know ahead of time there’s a hazard ahead and to be cautious –– so that one bad thing doesn’t turn into two or three more bad things.”