In 2014, the Spokane Fire Department, along with almost every other fire department in Spokane County, joined the PulsePoint app that gives information about each call they are dispatched to and summons aid from CPR certified citizens in the event someone has a heart attack.
Earlier this month, Spokane Fire was honored with the 2019 PulsePoint Agency of the Year award, bringing representatives from the California-based nonprofit to Spokane to deliver the award in person.
Vice president of communications Shannon Smith praised the leadership the department has provided on community-based response to cardiac arrest.
“We commend and congratulate Spokane for having one of the highest rates of citizen engagement with PulsePoint in the country,” she said.
Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said he likes all the information included in the app. People can see what type of calls are happening and which units are responding. They can even tap a button to listen to dispatchers and first responders communicate via radio. Those with CPR training can check a box that indicates they’re willing to respond when a heart attack is reported within close proximity to them.
“One of my primary jobs is to leverage opportunities,” Schaeffer said. “I try to keep us focused on the future. When it comes to technology, we’re always trying new things.”
The app provides information quickly to the public and the news media. The app also includes a map of every public automated external defibrillator in the county, and people can report new ones with a simple upload, Schaeffer said.
“We know the exact latitude and longitude of every AED,” he said. “We’d been struggling with that for years. I solved a bunch of problems with one app.”
The idea behind the app is that citizens might be able to arrive more quickly than paramedics, particularly during congested events like Hoopfest and Bloomsday, and can perform CPR until the fire department arrives. There’s no question the app works, Schaeffer said, citing at least four instances in his department alone where people were saved because of the app.
“This legit saves people,” he said.
Spokane Fire Lt. Patrick Moore is used to performing CPR on people while responding to calls from Spokane Fire Station 7, but he’s been off work after tearing a rotator cuff and his bicep while moving a heavy hose in September.
One day in April, Moore was home recovering from surgery, sitting on the couch watching a basketball game and eating chocolate ice cream. His phone went off with the distinctive alarm the app sounds when CPR is needed, and Moore noticed the address was only a few blocks away. He didn’t stop to say anything to his wife or children, but simply put down his ice cream and bolted for the door.
Moore said he assumed that a crew from nearby Station 11 would get there first, but he decided to go just in case they were on a call. Moore had a portable AED unit with him, one of 50 purchased with a grant and sent home with firefighters who agreed to carry them wherever they went.
But Moore arrived at the home first. “I turned the corner and there’s no lights, no sirens,” he said.
Moore was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and worried a bit about what the family would think about a stranger bursting in their front door, but he just ran right in, shouting that he was a firefighter.
The family was in the living room, where the son was performing CPR on his father while his mother was on the phone with 911. Moore took over the CPR and used the AED to administer a shock right as the crew from Station 11 arrived. He said they were surprised to see him, but recognized him.
“They had no idea I was coming,” he said. “I didn’t take the time to call dispatch.”
He continued CPR until the crew took over, then left. “I didn’t want to be a distraction,” he said.
Moore said he learned later that the man had been stabilized and taken to the hospital. The family updated the department when the man was discharged and sent home. He was pleased to find out that the man had survived.
“Normally, we don’t ever know,” he said. “It made a difference. That part felt great.”
What didn’t feel great, however, was his shoulder, but Moore said he never considered not responding.
“I was sore for a couple days,” he said. “I didn’t feel awesome. But what else am I going to do?”
Moore said he’s heard that some people are hesitant to get the PulsePoint app because they worry it will go off with CPR alerts all the time, but it really doesn’t, he said.
“You have to be within that half-mile circle,” he said. “It’s pretty rare.”
There are a lot of people, including nurses and other medical professionals, who have CPR training that could be key to saving a life, he said.
“There’s all kinds of people in the community that can do this, not just us,” he said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.