Stafford County Fire and Rescue hopes to soon roll out an app with the potential to save lives that may otherwise be lost to cardiac arrest.
But the department needs the community’s help. A contest is now underway asking the public to identify the location of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in public areas—including schools, churches, parks and office buildings—across the county.
The PulsePoint app sends out an alert triggered by a 9-1-1 call to those within a quarter of a mile of the cardiac arrest victim.
When users receive an alert from PulsePoint Respond, the application tells them the location of the cardiac arrest victim and where they can find the nearest AED. Residents can then provide assistance until first responders arrive at the scene.
Before the department activates the app, there is still one missing piece of the puzzle—the location of the AEDs. In order to be the most effective, the department wants to make sure each AED in the county is added to the database.
“We know these machines are out there and what they are capable of doing and that people will step up and use them if they know they are needed,” said Stafford County Fire Chief Mark Lockhart.
Lockhart explained that fire marshals conducting inspections note on their reports the location of AEDs, but there are still many missing from the database. The contest not only assists the department in documenting more locations, it also familiarizes residents with what an AED looks like and where they can find it.
“It’s about raising community awareness,” Lockhart said. “We knew folks would be out and about and it would be helpful if they knew where to look for an AED and what one looks like.”
To participate in the contest, residents need to download the PulsePoint AED app and then look for AEDs in public places. When they spot one, users simply describe the location and snap a picture. The information is verified, and the AED location data is later made available to anyone using the app.
Points are awarded for each AED located during the contest period, which runs to April 24.
The American Heart Association defines cardiac arrest as “the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease.” Each year, more than 350,000 emergency medical services-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States.
When responding to cardiac arrest, minutes can mean the difference between life and death, according to the AHA. If treated immediately, however, cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims.
Mark Lockhart said Deputy Chief Lori Knowles became aware of the PulsePoint app several years ago, but the project was delayed due to limited funding. The possibility of implementing the app in Stafford became a reality through a donation from the Stafford Hospital Foundation.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors and Gwyneth’s Gift Foundation also helped.
Stafford residents Joel and Jennifer Griffin created the Gwyneth’s Gift Foundation after their daughter, Gwyneth Griffin, died just shy of her 13th birthday due to complications suffered during a cardiac arrest while at school. Gwyneth wasn’t given CPR for at least 10 minutes.
The tragedy led Stafford County Fire and Rescue and others in the county to begin exploring ways to make members of the community more aware of what they can do to help.
Lockhart said the department is not far off from launching the app. The original goal date was June 1, but he now expects to roll it out before then. The exact date will be announced shortly.
“We are just checking to make sure the calls are coming through and it is doing what it supposed to do,” he said.
The top prizes for the contest winners were sponsored by Stafford County Fire and Rescue Association and include a 42-inch TV, a Samsung Galaxy tablet and a bluetooth speaker.
Contest winners will be announced on April 27.