Crowdsourcing Cardiac Help

CPR help may be just a phone alert away
pinpointing help The PulsePoint app shows the person in cardiac distress, and the location of those who can help

A new app and a local doctor are empowering Seattleites to help save lives. The PulsePoint app (, developed in San Francisco, can improve cardiac arrest survival rates by engaging the community. Anyone who is proficient at cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or using an automated external defibrillator (AED) can download the app and sign up to be notified when someone nearby is in cardiac distress.

Here’s how it works: Someone notices (or is notified by) a person in cardiac distress and calls 911 via the app. This triggers a notification that’s sent to everyone with the app who’s within walking distance of the victim, alerting them of the incident, and also the location of the closest defibrillator. Then, if all goes well, an alerted community member arrives on the scene to help until trained professionals arrive.

Only 4 percent of victims survive a heart attack without CPR or an AED. Survival rates improve to 10.5 percent if a bystander helps out—and that’s why PulsePoint is important. Dr. Michael Sayre, medical director of the Seattle Fire Department, advocates the integration of PulsePoint into the Seattle community. “I felt as though people in Seattle would respond to a call for help if they heard one. It’s really a team sport.”

Not sure your CPR skills are up to snuff? You can refresh them with the step-by-step CPR/AED “how to” guide found in the app’s menu.

Seattle joined the PulsePoint community last June, and there are currently about 4,000 subscribers. That number needs to increase to 15,000 to really make a dent in cardiac-arrest survival rates, says Sayre. Which means, what are you waiting for? Download that app. Stat. Eva Seelye

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