Suffolk County is providing a new app designed to allow smartphone-equipped citizens to become first responders to reports of cardiac arrests.
Suffolk County announced Thursday it would push out notifications to phones that have downloaded the free PulsePoint app when a 911 call comes in reporting someone with symptoms of cardiac arrest nearby. Recipients then could begin administering CPR or locate defibrillators.
"Without question, we think this is going to save lives in Suffolk County," County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference at the Holbrook Fire Department. In cases of cardiac arrest, he said, "every second counts" until paramedics get there.
Officials said more than 700 people had downloaded the PulsePoint Application by Thursday morning, and officials are hoping for 30,000 downloads within 30 days.
Residents who download the app, available for iOS and Android through iTunes, Google Play and other app stores, will receive alerts when a cardiac arrest is reported within 400 feet of their location. A GPS map of nearby defibrillators also will be available on their phones.
"We know early CPR saves lives," said Robert Delagi, director of Suffolk County EMS and Public Health Emergency Preparedness.
Only incidents at public locations such as parks or businesses will be pushed out. Private home addresses won't be sent.
Cardiac arrest "is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions," according to the American Heart Association's website. "In cardiac arrest, death results when the heart suddenly stops working properly."
Officials said on average, six to eight people die from cardiac arrest each day in Suffolk. Nationwide, there were almost 360,000 cardiac arrests outside of hospitals in 2013, with a survival rate below 10 percent, the heart association said.
Richard Price, president of the PulsePoint Foundation, a nonprofit that operates and manages the app, said patients in cardiac arrest can survive for only 10 minutes without medical assistance such as CPR or a defibrillation.
"We really have to have citizens engaging," Price said.
Price said he got the idea for the app about four years ago, when he was a fire chief in the San Ramon Valley Fire District in Northern California. He was eating lunch at a restaurant when he saw an ambulance coming. On the other side of the restaurant's wall, unknown to him, someone was suffering cardiac arrest. He said PulsePoint serves 500 communities in 17 states, and Suffolk County is the first on the East Coast.
Nassau County did not respond to a request for comment about the system.Joel Vetter, EMS coordinator for Suffolk County, said Good Samaritan laws protect those administering CPR from liability. The county used a federal grant for the $35,000 cost of developing the interface.
Suffolk will use the system free for the first two years, and then pay $15,000 in annual operating costs, Vetter said.