OnStar and PulsePoint Aim to Build a Community of Lifesavers

Posted on July 10, 2017

Smartphone showing the PulsePoint app.

Any OnStar Emergency Advisor will tell you that when an individual goes into cardiac arrest (1,000 Americans do every day), having someone close by who knows CPR and having access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can mean the difference between life and death. 

“OnStar was created based on our conviction that strengthening communities and connections between a community’s members is how we create a better, safer world,” says Catherine L. Bishop, Global Emergency Services senior manager at OnStar. “There has long been a need to do more for individuals who experience cardiac arrest — it’s why we were so excited to discover one innovative solution: PulsePoint. This foundation is a perfect example of how a community can come together and become stronger as a result. It’s why we have chosen to support PulsePoint.”

Like OnStar, the PulsePoint Foundation is all about human connections. PulsePoint uses human connections to speed aid to people experiencing cardiac arrest.

Nine in ten Americans who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest will die.1 But that grim statistic changes when a bystander intervenes with CPR and an AED. With prompt help from a nearby CPR-trained person, the survival rate can double, or even triple.

The problem is, while 57% of adults in the United States say they have had CPR training and are willing to use it, only 11% have actually used it in an emergency.

That’s the problem PulsePoint is working to change.

The PulsePoint Foundation has created two mobile apps that work together to connect people suffering a cardiac arrest with people nearby who can help. The PulsePoint Respond app alerts CPR-trained volunteers within walking distance of a reported cardiac arrest and indicates locations of nearby AEDs along the way, which can be notoriously hard to find in an emergency. The second app, PulsePoint AED, enables people to register AED devices and include precise location information and contextual photos. These device locations are then shared with responders and dispatchers during a cardiac arrest event.

2 smartphones, one showing the PulsePoint alert and the other showing the app.

There are currently more than 2,500 communities in 33 states that are connected with PulsePoint. When someone calls 911 to report a cardiac arrest occurring in a public place, first responders are dispatched while PulsePoint simultaneously sends an alert to CPR-trained citizens nearby. Typically the app alerts people within walking distance, but each community can customize the distance depending on population density and local response times. People who receive the notification will hear a distinctive alert sound and will be provided a map showing their location, the location of the victim, and any AED devices in the immediate vicinity.

“It may take professional first responders several minutes to arrive, but a nearby, CPR-trained individual responding to a PulsePoint alert can begin lifesaving CPR almost immediately,” says Shannon Smith, a PulsePoint representative. “It’s like a high-tech, wide-range version of shouting, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’” 

In one instance, a 911 call from a theater alerted a fellow theater-goer via PulsePoint — that person happened to be in the same theater, just rows behind the victim, and was able to provide lifesaving CPR until crews arrived. Another patient was saved during a rock concert by off-duty firefighters. The PulsePoint app alerted the fellow concertgoers and even provided the section, row and seat number.

In another instance, a family was shopping with their 5-week-old baby. The baby went into cardiac arrest, and when the family called 911, PulsePoint simultaneously notified an off-duty, volunteer EMT who happened to be working at his full-time job as a mechanic down the street from the store. “He was under a car working when he got the alert,” says Smith. “He wiped his hands, quickly made his way to the store and shouted, ‘Is CPR needed?’ Only a minute and a half had passed, but the infant had already turned blue. The man successfully resuscitated the baby. The fire department later said that without that PulsePoint responder, the infant would not have survived. That child is now 3 years old.”

PulsePoint now has 1.1 million users. 62,000 citizen responders have been alerted to more than 22,000 cardiac events. 

“If you have had any kind of CPR training — even if it was just a quick refresher course — we encourage you to download the app,” says Smith. “The American Heart Association and American Red Cross both recommend hands-only CPR — meaning no ventilation or mouth-to-mouth. It’s very simple. People can learn to do it at an airport kiosk in five minutes, watch an online video, or better yet sign up to take a local class.” 

Smith also notes that the AED devices placed in public locations are easy for anyone to use because they’re made for the layperson. “CPR helps restore the flow of blood and oxygen if someone is having a cardiac arrest, but AEDs are the only way to restart a heart," she says. "One physician put it this way: a heart attack is a plumbing problem; cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. You pull the device out of the case and the audible instructions help you every step of the way. The device then reads the patient’s vital signs and will only shock the person if they need it. They’re incredible machines that, if used more often, will absolutely increase cardiac arrest survival rates.”

“Like OnStar, PulsePoint has already saved many lives — their impact on communities is making a real difference,” adds OnStar's Bishop. “We’ve been pleased by the opportunity to work with this organization and support their mission because it’s one we share.” 

Here are 3 ways you can help:

1.     Learn CPR and download PulsePoint Respond to be notified if someone near you needs CPR.

2.     Download PulsePoint AED to register AED locations.

3.     If you are a new Lyft user, take a ride with Lyft using the code ONSTARGIVESBACK. OnStar and Lyft will be donating to PulsePoint to assist with their mission.

Disclaimer

1. Statistic provided by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, sca-aware.org.