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Fargo, Moorhead unveil app to get quicker help for sudden cardiac arrest victims

Moorhead Fire Chief Rich Duysen shows off a new mobile app that links with the local dispatch center and aims to get help quicker for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. David Samson / The Forum

By Robin Huebner / The Forum

FARGO – A new local smartphone app may help save lives by turning more people into rescuers.

The PulsePoint app is integrated with the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, which handles calls throughout the metro area. When a call comes in about a suspected cardiac arrest, the 911 communications center activates an alert to PulsePoint app users simultaneously with Fargo and Moorhead fire and police units and F-M Ambulance.

Using a smartphone’s geo-location services, the app alerts users trained in CPR who are within a quarter-mile of the victim, directing them via a live map to the person suffering cardiac arrest. It will also show the nearest automated external defibrillator, or AED.

Fire chiefs from both cities unveiled the app during a news conference at Fargo City Hall on Monday and said they expect the app to improve the communities’ survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest – a frequently fatal condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.

“When someone experiences cardiac arrest, time is critical,” said Fargo Fire Chief Steve Dirksen. “A victim may die within minutes unless they receive early CPR and have access to a defibrillator.”

Moorhead Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Wallin said the two cities are the first fire departments in North Dakota and Minnesota to implement PulsePoint.

“I would like to think we are at the front of a wave that is just sweeping across the country right now,” Wallin said.

There are about 383,000 episodes of sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting each year, 88 percent of which happen outside the home, according to the American Heart Association.

Dirksen said it’s estimated that effective and immediate CPR by a bystander after sudden cardiac arrest can double or even triple chances of survival, but only about 25 percent of those people receive CPR.

Wallin said it would make a huge impact if instead of having someone three to five minutes away, there was help one minute away.

A person doesn’t have to be trained to use an AED, and there are more than 330 in Fargo and more than 60 in Moorhead, officials said. The machine prompts every move with voice activation.

However, the fire chiefs encourage everyone to consider taking a CPR or first aid training course. Dirksen said even watching a YouTube video on CPR can be helpful.

The PulsePoint app was initiated by a fire department in San Ramon, Calif. Fargo leaders began looking into it last spring, and the city’s information services department began working on getting the app tied into dispatch.

“If we had hired a private contractor, we’d be looking at $25,000 to implement this,” Wallin said. “We were able to do it with in-house staff.”

The PulsePoint app is free and available at the online app stores for both Apple and Android devices.

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