Akron’s first responders are asking the public to buy them a few minutes the next time someone’s heart stops.

Mayor Dan Horrigan and Fire Chief Clarence Tucker announced Thursday that the city’s emergency dispatchers will be “crowd-sourcing CPR care until paramedics can arrive” by launching PulsePoint, a smartphone app develped by a California tech firm. The app notifies users when someone needs life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The app — deployed in 200 American cities, including Cleveland, where it saves two or three lives a year —works seamlessly with municipal dispatch services. When a 911 operator gets a call about an unresponsive victim, the event is logged in the system, automatically enlisting the nearest paramedics.

But, not counting the time it takes to make the phone call, paramedics require up to 6 minutes, on average, to arrive on scene.

“These are crucial minutes when life-saving CPR can be administered by a bystander,” said Horrigan, who called the adoption of PulsePoint part of his “duty to take care of citizens.”

If the emergency takes place on public property, then the call for help goes out to anyone who follows the Akron Fire Department on PulsePoint, which is free to download through Google Play or the Apple App Store. Emergencies at private residences will not be broadcast to PulsePoint users.

As ambulances roll out, users of the app will get a push notification directing them to the scene. There, the app gives blow-by-blow instructions on the administration of “hands-only CPR,” which involves chest compressions timed by loud pings delivered by the app.

Cleveland Clinic Akron General donated the $8,000 to tie the software into the city’s dispatch system. The hospital also provided training, support and the annual subscription cost.

Dr. Amy Raubenolt, an emergency medicine physician at Akron General, said 1,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest daily. Less than 10 percent survive, partly because two-thirds get no CPR from a bystander before professional help arrives. These rates are reflected locally, Akron fire officials said.

Though the majority of cardiac arrest cases occur in private residences, stewards of public spaces want to do everything possible to increase the survival rate, chasing cities like Seattle, where about half of cardiac arrest patients survive. That impressive statistic has only improved with the adoption of PulsePoint.

On the eve of national CPR Week and in addition to activating bystanders who may or may not be trained to provide emergency care, Akron’s leaders and public service organizations are pushing formal CPR training and access to machines that deliver an electric pulse to jumpstart a stopped heart. These devices, called automated external defibrillators (or AEDs), have batteries that require maintenance and charging.

Personal liability

PulsePoint users are not obligated to respond. If the call for help comes when a user is impaired, for example, they will not be held liable for ignoring it.

Users are also kept anonymous. For those worried that jumping in to save a life might open them up to a wrongful death or injury lawsuit, Akron Fire District Chief Joe Natko said there’s “very limited liability” for non-professionals who administer CPR or other lifesaving care because Ohio’s Good Samaritan law legally shields bystanders who provide “reasonable and prudent” medical help.

So far, the app has 152 users — all Akron paramedics who want to help, even if off-duty. The city is looking to add thousands of users with the hope that someday, when a baseball fan collapses during a game, PulsePoint users would swarm the stands to help.

On a portable table setup outside Rubber Ducks games, Akron firefighters began demonstrating to the public the ease of hands-only CPR on a dummy in April.

That dummy, along with information on the PulsePoint app, will be back at every baseball game this season and just about every city-sponsored event, including the Rib, White and Blue celebration, Italian Festival and African American Festival in July.

For a full list of upcoming training and informational sessions, visit https://bit.ly/2xuHwlb online.

Reach Doug Livingston at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @ABJDoug on Twitter or www.facebook.com/doug.livingston.92 on Facebook.