Hawai'i County Offering New Heart Attack Help on Big Island

Feb 4, 2020

Hawai’i County has started to use a new strategy to respond faster to a particular kind of medical emergency. It’s a way to get qualified people to help with cases of sudden cardiac arrest. 

About 10 years ago, a California fire chief was in a restaurant when fire trucks rolled up to help someone next door suffering from cardiac arrest. The chief was CPR-certified and had an Automatic External Defibrillator in his car, but had no way to know of the nearby medical emergency.

The experience gave him an idea for a cell phone app, one that Hawai’i County began using four months ago. 

“Pulse Point Respond is a mobile application that alerts citizens to someone nearby having a sudden cardiac arrest," said Mike Lam with Hawaii County Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services Bureau. "The app is activated by our Dispatch Center simultaneous with the dispatch of local Fire and EMS resources. The purpose of this app is to increase the survival rates of cardiac arrest victims.”

The company says its app is used in 3,800 communities around the country, and has led to more than 100,000 calls for CPR. The company says in many cases, lives were saved because of a fast response. Captain Lam says timing is critical. 

“When the heart stops, blood is not pumping to the vital organs, and if there is more than a 2 to 5-minute interruption of blood flow to the vital organs, then there is organ death. Our ambulances, even with quick response, arriving at someone's home in 2 to 5 minutes is not realistic, especially in some of the rural areas of our island. Therefore, bystander CPR is essential in one’s survival.” 

The City and County of Honolulu uses the app. Last May, it alerted a former Ocean Safety officer who helped save a man who went into cardiac arrest while dining in Waikiki. 

Honolulu EMS spokesperson Shayne Enright says Honolulu’s Pulse Point was initially funded by the county and is now funded by Queen’s Medical Center. 

On the Big Island, Hilo Medical Center Foundation raised funds to cover the initial cost of nearly $19,000, and plans to continue fundraising to cover the $8,000  annual fee.

For volunteers, the Pulse Point phone app is free.