The Future of Citizen First Responders


Photo courtesy of JEMS

How long does it take for paramedics to arrive in a life-threatening emergency?

The goal is 6 minutes.  But, that may not be fast enough.  How can someone receive care sooner?

There’s an app for that! This article from the Journal of Emergency Medical Services explains how a new program is testing this out.

The PulsePoint App broadcasts 9-1-1 alerts for heart attack victims to CPR-trained citizens and the nearest AEDs (defibrillators).  These alerts are sent to the citizens’ smart phones and they are then triangulated to the location for fast response and preparation for when an ambulance arrives.

The goal? To reach patients within 2 minutes.

This community-centered approach for saving lives makes a lot of sense to the Uber generation.  We use our phones to hail an Uber car instead of a taxi, why not use it to crowdsource emergency care?

The public safety leaders in Jersey City, New Jersey have teamed up with PulsePoint to make the faster response a reality.  With 700 residents who’ve volunteered for the program so far, they are increasing cardiac arrest survival by getting CPR to the patients sooner.

How does it work?

“When a 9-1-1 call is received, the EMS dispatcher sends the closest ambulance while another dispatcher uses special  crowdsourcing smartphone technology to locate any volunteers close to the emergency. These volunteers are then notified via a smartphone alert so they can respond to the emergency rapidly and provide lifesaving care in those critical moments prior to the arrival of ambulances. This especially makes a difference for victims of trauma, choking, acute cardiac emergencies, stroke and other time-dependent conditions, who often need medical attention before an ambulance arrives.”

The city is reporting fantastic results so far.

What about the quality of care from a non-EMS professional?  Is that a concern?  No.  The citizen responders go through a thorough screening and training process.  The overriding philosophy is that some help is better than no help prior to the arrival of first responders.

The “Bystander” assist idea is not new. Last year, one city’s crowdsourced first response increased survival rate from 4% to 14%.  Read Tokyo Fire Department Considers Paying Bystanders to Give First Aid

The future of emergency response and mobile healthcare is here and it is opening the door to community involvement and a support structure that saves more lives.

If we are all looking after one another as first responders, we also need the tools to help in a multi-lingual world.  In the U.S., a growing percentage of EMS patient encounters involves a language barrier.

The 1st Minute App turns the mobile phone into a translation device to solve this problem.  However, there are plans to do something similar to PulsePoint and create a program for “Bilingual Citizen Responders” to assist on-scene during a medical emergency for the non-native speaker.


Download 1st Minute App for iOS on the App Store

Download 1st Minute App for Android on Google Play

One response to “The Future of Citizen First Responders”

  1. I think the idea of emergency medical responders being able to, well, respond to emergencies quickly is brilliant. Using phones to help facilitate this type of action is just another example of how technology is really helping make the world a better place, little by little. I’m excited to see what else can help in the future, but for now, this is great news. Thanks for sharing!