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Spokane Firefighters Participate in Program to Save Lives While Off-Duty

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A hundred Spokane and Spokane Valley firefighters today (Wednesday) received new tools that will allow them to save lives while they’re not on duty. They’re participating in a national pilot project designed to help save the lives of people who suffer cardiac arrest in their homes or other private places.

For the last several years, people have been able to download a phone app called PulsePoint. It  allows them to be notified if someone in a public space within a quarter mile is suffering from cardiac arrest. The idea is that someone who receives the prompt will respond, administer CPR and save a life.

Now PulsePoint has built on that. Its new pilot project is aimed at making medical rescues by off-duty firefighters possible in private places, such as homes. The two Spokane area fire departments are the third group in the nation to participate and the second in the Northwest. Ken Witter from Spokane Valley is one of 100 professionals to volunteer.

“A fire station might be four or five minutes away. If I could go to you and close that gap within 30 seconds, I have increased your chances of being able to survive this cardiac event,” Witter said.

On Wednesday, Witter and his colleagues each picked up their own automated external defibrillators (dee-FIB-rull-lators) donated by a private company for this project. Those are the little machines you often find on the walls in public buildings to be used in emergencies. Witter will carry his around in his vehicle. Along with it, he has downloaded PulsePoint’s new app for this program. He’ll get a notification if he’s within a quarter mile of a reported cardiac arrest, even if it’s in a private space.

“As a verified EMS public safety employee, I will knock on the door and say, ‘I can help right now’ and start CPR, if it’s needed, right then and there,” Witter said.

The emergency medical program in King County will monitor the results of the pilot. If those are deemed to be significant, the project could be expanded to other fire departments around the nation.