Miami Beach

Miami Beach uses app to alert bystanders of sudden cardiac arrest

PulsePoint has support from the American Heart Association.
PulsePoint has support from the American Heart Association.

Imagine getting a notification on your smartphone telling you there’s a life to save nearby.

That’s the purpose of PulsePoint, a mobile app that alerts users within a quarter-mile radius if emergency responders are dispatched to someone who’s suffered sudden cardiac arrest. The idea is that bystanders can quickly provide CPR before emergency responders arrive.

The Miami Beach Fire Department has partnered with the app so the city can offer the service, which has support from the American Heart Association. The AHA recently released guidelines that for the first time recommended communities consider the use of social media to quickly get help to people who’ve gone into cardiac arrest.

“I think that if we’re going to make a difference in the lives of those that suffer from sudden cardiac arrest, it’s going to be through early intervention,” Miami Beach Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez said. The department is encouraging everyone, CPR-certified or not, to download the free app.

If one is notified of someone needing CPR nearby, the app shows a map that locates the user and the person in distress. Once the user reaches the person who needs help, the app can guide non-CPR-trained users through performing chest compressions.

The cost of implementing PulsePoint was about $15,000 for Miami Beach.

The service also shows users the location of nearby Automated External Defibrillators. In addition to asking resident to download the app and follow the Miami Beach Fire Department, officials are asking businesses with AEDs to let the department know so they can be included in the app.

According to a recent report from the Institute on Medicine, about 395,000 cases of cardiac arrest occur outside of a hospital each year. Of those cases, less than 6 percent survive.

It’s important to note that cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. AHA explains cardiac arrest as an “electrical” problem that occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem that occurs when blood flow to the heart is stopped.

Each minute is crucial after someone goes into cardiac arrest, with the chances of survival decreasing as time passes. This is what has motivated cities like Sunrise, the first to use the app in South Florida, and Miami Beach to implement the app.

The Beach is the first the agency in Miami-Dade to use the service. In addition to CPR notifications, users can also choose to be notified about emergencies that are called in to the city’s call center, such as structure fires and vehicle accidents. Users will have the ability to listen to dispatch calls through a radio function in the app.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech