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St. Louis County aims for faster CPR response

Officials say a new mobile app will allow bystanders to help save lives in the event of sudden cardiac arrest.

Speakers gather at news conference in county boardroom
Adela Alvarez, a cardiac arrest survivor, speaks at a news conference Tuesday announcing St. Louis County's partnership with the Pulse Point program, which allows bystanders to assist in situations that require CPR. Also pictured, from left: Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj, Kraig Erickson of the Pulse Point Foundation, St. Louis County supervising deputy Brandon Silgjord, Christine Erickson of the Pulse Point Foundation (obscured) and Dr. Todd Struckman, St. Luke's emergency medicine physician.
Contributed / St. Louis County
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DULUTH — The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office has joined a national effort to make it easier for bystanders to provide potentially lifesaving assistance for people experiencing cardiac arrest.

The county on Tuesday announced a partnership with PulsePoint, a nonprofit foundation that offers a free smartphone app that is integrated with local 911 dispatch systems.

Now, when an emergency call is placed for possible cardiac arrest, a 911 communications specialist will not only dispatch first responders, but an automatic alert will be sent out to anyone who has downloaded the PulsePoint Respond app and is located within approximately a quarter-mile of the reported location.

Officials say it will allow anyone who is trained in CPR to provide immediate assistance, and the app also provides information on nearby automated external defibrillators, which can be found in many public buildings, schools and businesses.

"PulsePoint is a great new tool that will save lives in St. Louis County," said 911 supervising deputy Brandon Silgjord. "As large as our county is, response times can take longer, especially when weather may be bad. So we are thankful to Arrowhead EMS, which funded this program for us."

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Screenshot of PulsePoint app showing AED location
A screenshot of the PulsePoint Respond mobile app shows the location of an automatic external defibrillators at the St. Louis County Courthouse in downtown Duluth.
Contributed / St. Louis County

Sudden cardiac arrest is considered a leading cause of death, and any delay in CRP can prove fatal, as the heart, brain and other vital organs are left without enough oxygenated blood. According to the American Heart Association, a patient's chances of survival drop by approximately 10% for every minute that CPR is delayed.

Only about 11% of those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest survive, according to PulsePoint, with nearly 1,000 deaths across the United States daily. About 60% don't receive any help until professionals arrive, so the foundation hopes to tap into the 13 million Americans who are CPR trained and certified annually.

"To be clear, PulsePoint does not replace first responders," said Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj. "Rather, it is a way for the public to help until we get there. People should still call 911 if they see an emergency. We will still respond. Ambulances will still respond. But this is a way for people to start giving CPR sooner and hopefully save a life."

PulsePoint only sends alerts for medical emergencies occurring in public locations. Notifications are not sent when an incident happens in a private home.

A second app available from the foundation allows citizens to register the locations of any AED devices that may be used in the event of an emergency. October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, and PulsePoint is offering entries into a drawing for $500 gift cards to anyone who registers a device.

The PulsePoint Respond and the PulsePoint AED apps are both available for download in the iPhone App Store and Google Play.

The sheriff's office additionally announced that all marked squad cars are now equipped with AED devices, thanks to a grant from the University of Minnesota Medical School's Center for Resuscitation Medicine.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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