Every year roughly 380,000 people experience a cardiac arrest event in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. Four out of five of these cases occur at home.
Those who experience a cardiac arrest while outside of their home can be helped through PulsePoint, a free app for both Apple and Android that notifies nearby users that someone is in need of CPR. The app will only show CPR alerts if the origin location of the call is in a public place, according to PulsePoint.
Shannon Smith is the vice president of communications for PulsePoint.
“If you're a community member, and you're trained in CPR, just opt into CPR alerts,” Smith said. “It'll notify you if you happen to be within a quarter-mile radius of someone suffering a cardiac event.”
In the event of a CPR alert, PulsePoint notifies bystanders who have opted into CPR alerts and provides directions to the location of the emergency. The app will also tell bystanders the location of the nearest automated external defibrillator — and how to use it — and step-by-step CPR instructions. The app has a metronome for consistent compressions, Smith said.
“We started in 2011 and we’re now connected in more than 4,770 communities,” she said.
Mike Hilley spent 30 years as a paramedic in King County before joining the Whatcom County EMS division. He is now the emergency medical service manager for Whatcom County.
PulsePoint has been in Whatcom County since 2017, he said.
In June 2023 in Whatcom County, PulsePoint had 5,599 monthly active users who have opted in for general emergency alerts,1,314 of which opted in specifically for CPR alerts, Hilley said.
Hilley said when he was staying in Seattle he was notified of a CPR alert nearby.
“My PulsePoint goes off and I'm like, 'Well, heck, I'm gonna start heading over,'” Hilley said. "But I was on the 10th floor of my building, and by the time I got there EMS was on scene and the trucks were outside.”
Hilley said that for 2022, the national average survival rate for cardiac arrest with a positive outcome of the survivor being able to resume a relatively normal life is 30.7%, with local rates of 35.8% statewide and 41.2% in Whatcom County.
“Washington alone is a leader against the rest of the nation for survival from sudden cardiac arrest,” he said.
Hilley said that a contributing factor to the higher survival rate is early bystander CPR.
“We enjoy a great community that is willing to stop and help,” he said.
Washington state’s Good Samaritan Law RCW4.24.300 protects bystanders who intervene in a medical emergency, such as a cardiac arrest, from civil damages.
Christie Veley is the public education and information specialist for the Marysville Fire Department.
"You don't have to be a professional first responder to make a difference in a situation like that,” she said. “When it comes to hands-only CPR, you can literally watch an online video, and then you could possibly save someone's life.”
Michael Sayre is the medical director of the Seattle Fire Department and values the importance of starting CPR early.
“Make sure that people know the need to do CPR, and to call 911 right away,” Sayre said. “The more people we can get signed up throughout the whole state, the better.”
Those interested in learning CPR in Whatcom County can visit the Whatcom County Fire District 7 website or call (360) 384-0303 for more information.
Joshua Kornfeld (he/him) is a city reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a junior majoring in journalism who enjoys photography, live music and exploring new coffee shops.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.