On the evening of Dec. 28, soon after shoppers and staff at Food 4 Less called 911 for a cardiac arrest occurring at the front of the store, news of the emergency streaked beyond the store to a wider community.
Those people weren’t all listening to a police scanner. Some were in nearby apartments. One was in the Food 4 Less parking lot. Another was in Denny’s, and two more were in the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center.
What they had in common was the PulsePoint Respond app, which sent an alert to nine phones within a quarter mile of the cardiac emergency at 5:58 p.m.
That alert was sent just 19 seconds after local crews were dispatched in response to the Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon 911 alert.
“I’m sure they rendered aid of some kind,” said Kip Gray, the on-duty battalion chief with Medford Fire-Rescue that day. “A quick response is critical.”
The victim in this case, 81-year-old Clarence Wienecke, survived, likely in large part due to the interventions from those nearby.
Local first responders look to examples such as this as evidence for why more of the public, from businesses to private citizens, should get connected with the PulsePoint Respond app.
The digital network, which is linked into the county’s emergency dispatch system, encourages bystanders to help during cardiac emergencies through both push notification alerts and information on life-saving measures.
“Time is the key,” said Justin Bates, deputy chief with Medford Fire-Rescue. “We’re trying to beat time both with CPR and early defibrillation with the defibrillator.”
So far 10,864 people in Jackson County have signed up for alerts on the PulsePoint Respond app, which gives information on various emergencies ranging from traffic collisions to structure fires to the app’s principal purpose, cardiac emergencies. The app, available free from any app store, is approaching its third year in Jackson County after a Feb. 1, 2017, launch.
Users who are CPR-trained and sign up for cardiac alerts are notified anytime they are within 400 yards of an unfolding cardiac emergency. If they choose to respond, the app tells those users where to find the nearest automated external defibrillator, which is used to restart a heart that has stopped beating.
Melissa Cano, public information officer for Medford Fire-Rescue, said the app tracks location only in alert situations, as in the case of the Food 4 Less incident. It also only alerts app users if the emergency is happening in a public location — it doesn’t release private addresses.
“They’re not tracked in a sense of, we know where they’re at at all times, and we’re going to call them up and say, ‘Why didn’t you respond to that cardiac?’” Barnes said. “It’s not like that.”
PulsePoint arrived in Southern Oregon “through the emergency services grapevine,” Bates said. More than $50,000 in donations from local partners, including Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, Providence Medford Medical Center and Mercy Flights, as well as other grant money, made the launch and spread of PulsePoint in Jackson County possible.
In mid-2017, local agencies held a competition for people to go out and find as many defibrillators as they could throughout the county, with a $10,000 prize awarded to the person who found the most.
Defibrillator locations show up on the app’s interactive map when it’s opened, as does every emergency alert of any kind issued in the past 48 hours.
Ashley Blakely, public information officer with Jackson County Fire District No. 3, said Fire District 3 has 71 responding staffers who cover 53,000 people.
“There’s way more community members than there are emergency services,” said Blakely.
If someone can administer CPR or aid via an AED before an emergency vehicle can arrive, she said, “It’s going to be a win-win for everyone.”
Because cardiac arrests deprive the brain of oxygen, a victim’s outcome can be impacted by every minute, Barnes said.
A cardiac emergency victim’s chances of survival decreases 10 percent with every minute they don’t receive help, according to PulsePoint’s website. Conversely, bystander-provided CPR can double or triple the chance of survival, the website says.
“You don’t have to respond, but there’s no responsibility for you to actually do anything,” Bates said.
“It’s really an opportunity for the public to make a difference,” he said. “Very rarely in our lives do we ever have a situation where it’s like a life and death. You know, you can do something simple and easy to help save a life, and this is one of those things.”