New smartphone apps are a dime a dozen but few can have a life changing — or life saving — impact. But the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District outside San Francisco has created an app that does just that. Aptly named “Fire Department,” the application empowers iPhone users to provide life-saving assistance to someone suffering from a sudden heart attack. Any user who indicated that he knows CPR will be notified if someone nearby is having a heart attack and needs help.

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When you first launch the app, it asks if you’re trained in CPR and would be willing to help a stranger in an emergency. Once you accept this, the application uses the iPhone’s GPS technology to find your location. The next time a 911 dispatcher receives a call that an emergency is happening near you, you receive a notification saying where help is needed and where the closest automated external defibrillator (AED) is located.

“Providing actionable, real-time information during a sudden cardiac arrest emergency, including mapping the victim and rescuer locations, along with the nearest AED locations is the quintessential use of GPS technology on a mobile phone today,” San Ramon Fire Chief Richard Price said in a press release.

The application, which has existed as a less sophisticated version for some time, is being developed by interns at Northern Kentucky University’s Center for Applied Informatics, and Workday is helping to develop the app for other platforms. The app could work very well in San Ramon, mainly because the city’s fire department is more advanced than many others across the country. The department has a very detailed list of AED locations, like “at the Customer Service counter in Home Depot,” while many regions have no list at all or just vaguely list the location.

The app was officially unveiled yesterday, but the fire department has been testing it with San Ramon’s 22,000 iPhone users for the past six months. More than test 600,000 notifications have been sent, but there is no data yet about the app’s effectiveness and success rate. Still, the potential is extremely exciting.


Nearly 300,000 people die from sudden cardiac arrest each year in the U.S. The survival rate is less than eight percent and brain death begins in just four to six minutes. Even the best EMS in the country have response times that exceed seven minutes. Bystander CPR and the early use of an AED are extremely critical to a victim’s survival. This app strengthens the connection between bystanders and victims, ultimately increasing the chances of survival. While it may not necessarily be “green design,” it’s most definitely smart design.

+ Fire Department App

Via Tech Crunch