The San Ramon (Calif.) Valley Fire Protection District (SRVFPD) has released an iPhone application that lets local residents provide life‐saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Application users who indicate they are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation can register for the application. They then are notified if someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and requires CPR, Chief Richard Price said.

The department was prompted to develop the app after a lunch Price had with his IT staff at a San Ramon deli. He heard a siren and saw an ambulance parked out front. While the chief isn’t notified of medical events, he was upset that a citizen was in need while he enjoyed his lunch.

“It really bothered me that someone was in great need on the other side of the wall from where I was sitting and I didn’t know,” Price said. “I made a pledge that wasn’t going to happen to me again.”

Apple put the department’s IT staff in touch with college interns from Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics to develop the app. San Ramon residents began beta-testing the app in June. Since the onset of the pilot, Price said the department has recorded nearly 300 new users daily for more than 30,000 total. The district has sent about 600,000 push notifications during the assessment period, he said.

iPhone Demo from Fire Department on Vimeo.

“We have been making sure we could support a large number of users and could handle the notifications efficiently, because this isn’t just an application that people download to their phones, these are all connected to our servers and our dispatch system,” Price said. “So think about adding 300 PCs to your network every day. We wanted to make sure we could support it.”

Price said when a cardiac 911 call is received by the city’s dispatch center, the data are sent to first responders and citizens’ iPhones. If the cardiac emergency is in a public place, the application — using GPS technology — will alert citizens in that vicinity that someone needs CPR. The app also directs such citizens to the exact location of the closest public-access automated external defibrillator.

“We will dispatch our crews as normal and, at the same time, we will dispatch citizens that are in the immediate vicinity of that reported location,” he added.

Price said the International Association of Fire Chiefs has committed to promoting the app and will work with the department to help other agencies adopt it.

“We are trying to develop a strategy to move it across the country, and the IAFC is behind that initiative,” he said.

For more information on communications for public safety, attend these sessions at IWCE in Las Vegas, March 7-11, 2011.