PulsePoint FAQ

PulsePoint Activation Map.
Person holds phone with PulsePoint App

An App Created From Everyday Need...

The PulsePoint app is the brainchild of Fire Chief Richard Price of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, who was moved to create the App after realizing a need for community responder notification. He was eating lunch at a local deli when his own fire department personnel arrived out front for an emergency. A patron of the business next door had collapsed from a cardiac arrest, and Chief Price had no way of knowing that his skills in CPR and defibrillation were needed next door. This realization led to the creation of this mobile app, and its subsequent deployment in communities across California, including ours.

Frequently Asked Questions for PulsePoint

Does the app raise any HIPAA or other privacy concerns?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information. On a ‘CPR Needed’ notification, the app reports only the address (in a public place) and a business name, if available. Individually identifiable health information, such as a name, birth date, or Social Security Number are not reported or known to the PulsePoint application.

The PulsePoint app is a Location‐Based Service (LBS) with the ability to make use of the geographical position of your mobile device. The LBS capabilities of the app allow you to see your current location relative to the incidents occurring around you. This is an optional feature that is not enabled by default – you must specially opt‐in to utilize this functionality. In addition, if you opt‐in to the CPR/AED notification, the PulsePoint server will store your current location for immediate reference during an emergency where you may be nearby. In this case, only the current location of your device is stored (no movement history is maintained) and your identity is never known to the PulsePoint application.

How do you know if people subscribing to the CPR/AED notification are really trained and qualified?

CPR today is very easy to perform and can be learned quickly in informal settings such as community street fairs, group training sessions, take‐home DVD‐based courses, or even by watching brief online videos. These types of training environments do not provide certificates of other forms of skill documentation. Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) actually require no training to use. Therefore, there is no ability or even reason to verify that someone volunteering to help others with CPR or an AED has been formally trained. Learn how you can help save a life in this one‐minute American Heart Association video showing Hands‐Only CPR in action.

Is there a risk that the app will draw too many bystanders to the emergency medical scene?

Only about one quarter of Sudden Cardiac Arrest victims receive bystander CPR, and public access Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are used less than 3% of the time when needed and available. The current situation is far too few bystander rescuers – not too many. The goal of the app is to engage additional bystanders in these lifesaving acts. If this was to truly materialize in the future it would be a major success and the footprint of the notification could be reduced.

How do you prevent someone from using the CPR/AED notification to steal from or otherwise take advantage of a cardiac arrest victim?
For the app to be activated someone must first call the local emergency number (such as 911) to begin a normal public safety response. This means that the victim is likely not alone when the CPR/AED notifications are made. In addition, the app is only activated for incidents occurring in public places (not at someone’s home for example) furthering the likelihood that others will be present. Also, since the app is only activated on devices in the immediate vicinity of the victim, a “Bad Samaritan” has little opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.

How big is the notification radius for CPR/AED events?

The app aims to notify those essentially within walking distance of the event location. However, this distance is configurable on an agency by agency basis. Higher population densities usually warrant a smaller notification radius. Likewise, a rural area with longer local government response times may choose to notify over a broader area.

Can I be successfully sued if I voluntarily help a victim in distress?

The purpose of the Good Samaritan Law is to protect individuals that assist a victim during a medical emergency. Most Good Samaritan laws are created specifically for the general public. The law assumes that there is no medically trained person available to assist the victim. Since the Good Samaritan typically does not have medical training, the law protects him or her from being liable from injury or death caused to the victim during a medical emergency. A general layperson is protected under the Good Samaritan laws as long as he or she has good intentions to aid the victim to the best of his or her ability during a medical emergency. Since each state law has specific guidelines, and this text does not provide a worldwide view of this matter, you should familiarize yourself with the laws or acts applicable to you. A typical example of the wording appears below.

“...a person, who, in good faith, lends emergency care or assistance without compensation at the place of an emergency or accident, and who was acting as a reasonable and prudent person would have acted under the circumstances present at the scene at the time the services were rendered, shall not be liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions performed in good faith.”

Could the app make a CPR/AED notification when CPR isn’t needed?

Yes. With dispatchers making rapid over‐the‐telephone assessments of patients based on the observations of untrained callers, an incorrect determination can be made. For example, such a situation could occur with someone who has just had a grand mal seizure, passed out from too much alcohol, or has a very high blood sugar. However, if you tried to do CPR on such an individual he or she would probably moan and possibly even try to push you away. Also, an AED would not deliver a shock to a person in any condition where an effective heartbeat was present.

How does PulsePoint determine if a location is Public?

The PulsePoint application will query the FedEx shipping database to determine if the address should be considered residential or business (public). If it comes up as “undetermined” such as a park, it queries Google Places.

How do we get our incident pictures to appear on the Photos Section?

Submit photos for the UC Davis Fire Department via email at ucdfirecontact@ucdavis.edu. Include the date, time, and incident/event name.

If I live outside the Davis area, can I only get alerts for CPR when I am in range?

The CPR notification will only notify you if you are within walking distance of the incident. The CPR notification works in jurisdictions where the app is deployed. For instance, if you have CPR alerts set to “on” and you happen to be in a participating agency’s jurisdiction (Alameda County Fire, San Jose Fire, etc.) and within walking distance of a CPR notification, it will alert you even though you have UC Davis or the City of Davis set as your Agency. You can adjust the alerts that you sign up for at any time.