A mobile application developed to alert citizen volunteers trained in CPR of emergencies in California’s the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District is spreading nationwide.

The district has created the PulsePoint Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed specifically to distribute its Fire Department CPR notification app to other fire and rescue departments in communities throughout the United States.

Related: Click here to read more about how the "Fire Department CPR" app works.

The app, which was launched in January, provides users within walking distance of someone suffering from sudden cardiac arrest with a message on their iPhone with incident details, the location of where CPR is needed and the site of the nearest publicly-accessible defibrillator. The app also gives notifications of fires and pinpoints where on a map those blazes are occurring.

Richard Price, fire chief of San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and president of PulsePoint Foundation, said that while the CPR notification is the core function of the app, that particular notification hasn’t been activated yet simply because there aren’t enough sudden cardiac arrests in the district to warrant using it. In order for the app to achieve its potential, it needs a bigger service area.

Price explained that the CPR notification is only used when a sudden cardiac arrest occurs in a public area, not private homes. So in the area that fire protection district covers, that number would be below 75 instances annually.

“We are just a small agency here without a lot of opportunity to activate the app,” Price said. “You have 300,000 people a year dying from cardiac arrest around the country and we’re a tiny piece of that. It really needs to be in larger populations to achieve its goals and the larger areas that have thousands of opportunities a year to activate it.”

Expansion Plans

Price said he’s gotten inquiries from nearly 200 fire and emergency services agencies about using the app. But since the app was supported and maintained by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and created using local taxpayer funds, expansion to those agencies and others outside of California isn’t practical by itself.

That’s where the PulsePoint Foundation comes in.

“The foundation allows a new organization, with a clear mission to help other agencies [use the app],” Price said. “It can raise its own money, accept private donations and use its own staff and resources to help move the app into other organizations.”

Price revealed that Arizona is planning on implementing the app in its dispatch centers statewide. The first city in the state will be Mesa, Ariz. Additionally, Intergraph Corp., a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system company, will be adding the app to all its accounts. That means all agencies using that company’s CAD systems will eventually have access to the app.

Kimberly French, information office for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, said that PulsePoint is also working with other major CAD vendors to have the app available for their interfaces.

Prior to the Fire Department CPR app hitting the national stage, the app and its support system will receive a number of upgrades, according to Price. He said that Workday, a software development company headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif., will be debuting an Android version of the app in late July along with other changes, such as a new configuration screen.

“Workday is also developing an enterprise-class infrastructure to support the app on a global basis,” Price explained. “They’ve taken the work we’ve done and scaled it considerably to handle the scope that is being anticipated.”

When asked about a release date, French wouldn’t commit to an exact time frame, but said that the foundation has been working with the San Jose Fire Department, which has plans to test the app later this year. She explained that the San Jose Fire Department runs the same CAD interface as the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, so they were an ideal test candidate.

The plan is to have the full release in early 2012, in the San Jose Fire Department’s jurisdiction.

High Praise

The Fire Department CPR notification app has already garnered a number of honors, including CTIA-The Wireless Association 2011 VITA Wireless Samaritan Award, an American Heart Association Life Saver Heart Partner Award and various others.

Created by the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and the Northern Kentucky University College of Informatics, both organizations have relinquished the rights from their original work on the Fire Department CPR notification app to the PulsePoint Foundation.

James Votruba, Northern Kentucky University’s president, said the collaboration between PulsePoint and the university aligns with the school’s outreach mission and the university was proud to be a part of the app and the initiative.

Price said that the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District used several interns from the school in the development of the Fire Department CPR notification app and many have gone on to work for Workday.

“That’s a major thing for a university to do; essentially giving up all their copyright and [intellectual property] to the foundation is a big deal,” Price said. “They really see the mission here.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. He also contributes to Emergency Management magazine. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y.