PulsePoint, Open Police and Fire Radio Channels: You Might Consider This, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson


In the early 1970s the major selling point of starting a paramedic service in a fire department was the potential for saving lives with urgent care for heart attack victims and trauma victims. Advanced Life Support — some of it learned on the battlefields in the Vietnam War — was going to save lives. Certainly many lives have been saved.

Fast forward to the year 2014, and the effectiveness of paramedic response in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is under scrutiny. It’s now known for several years that the rapid application of a defibrillator is what is most effective for cardiac arrest. Not a drug box full of cardiac drugs, and not a defibrillator that arrives on the scene in 5 or 6 minutes or more. When cardiac arrest occurs, chance of survival decreases 10 percent for each minute without defibrillation. If paramedics arrive in three to six minutes or more, that is a significant decrease in the chance of survival.

Currently only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander. More lives can be saved when bystander CPR is started within a minute or two — especially with the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Additionally success can be achieved with compression-only CPR without mouth-to-mouth, which many understandably are unwilling perform.

A group of visionaries, including physicians and fire chiefs have formed PulsePoint, a non-profit foundation to make it much easier for citizens who are trained in CPR to use their lifesaving skills after notification via their smartphones.

VIDEO of a simulated PulsePoint app scenario in action from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. The app uses sophisticated location-based services to alert citizens of the need for CPR in a public place, but does not activate for private residences.

The PulsePoint app notifies registered users when a cardiac event is reported to 9-1-1 in the vicinity of the user’s current location. The PulsePoint app notifies the user where the victim is located and where the nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is located. The app also allows a user to listen to the FIRE-RESCUE-PARAMEDIC radio frequency, which could give better awareness about the arrival time of the paramedic ambulance, and would also permit awareness of any corrections or details necessary to update the 9-1-1 center about the FIRE-RESCUE-PARAMEDIC response.

We saved the privacy of your medical records, but we lost your life

Northwest Central Dispatch System is a publicly-funded 9-1-1 system providing police and fire radio dispatch services for Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Mt. Prospect, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and Streamwood. In Prospect Heights only the police department utilizes NWCDS. System-wide, NWCDS covers nearly 500,000 residents in a 125-square mile area. None of these communities have PulsePoint.

In addition these communities use a radio system that has been impossible or very expensive to monitor by the public. The police frequencies are deliberately secured with military-grade encryption that may catch the occasional criminal in the act, but for the balance, seriously inhibits the public safety of the citizens that fund these public safety services. The fire radios use a newer technology that requires an expensive scanner that only recently has been available in quantity to the general public. The secrecy of these radio systems prevents or seriously inhibits any chance for early spontaneous mutual aid from any communities outside the NWCDS secret radio system, and prevents any chance of help from citizens, off-duty police officers and firefighter/paramedics, nurses, and other qualified citizens that may be able to help in an emergency. Many of the northwest suburban fire chiefs have been operating for several months now (since June 5, 2013) with knowledge that their radio systems are difficult to monitor.

Perhaps it is the extreme legal liability climate of Illinois and privacy concerns about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) that caused this culture, but there is a serious separation of public safety service from the spirit of volunteerism and community cooperation in this area.

One northwest suburban fire administrator, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity about the secure radio frequencies, once told The Cardinal that fire departments don’t want people knowing that the paramedics are responding to help your neighbor who has a pain in his toe from gout, for example. “That’s personal and private information,” he added. That’s a particularly ironic statement considering that a painful toe from gout isn’t usually a medical emergency that requires an Advanced Life Support ambulance. Secondly, that neighbor would probably prefer that a CPR-qualified neighbor was aware if that neighbor ever suffered cardiac arrest.

The Journal & Topics newspaper interviewed several municipal leaders last July 2013 — a little over one month after NWCDS radios went secret from the public — to determine how these leaders justify the need for an encrypted radio system.

“As much as public knowledge is important, public safety supercedes it,” Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said. “We’ve had too many incidents over the years where people are hearing when we’re trying to apprehend someone. They hear our operations on scanners that are too accessible.” When Johnson asked for specific instances or even how often that was an issue, Johnson would only say “many times,” but he pulled out the Homeland Security theme — adding that police commanders did not want him discussing any specifics. Johnson also said that NWCDS fire communications remain unencrypted, but might not be available in the future. “This probably should have been done years ago,” he said.

Today the avid cyclist, and 54-year-old mayor of Elk Grove Village is recovering from double-bypass surgery performed on February 17, 2014. He suffered pain and discomfort in his abdominal region while exercising on his stationary bike in his basement. He did not suffer cardiac arrest, but if he or any citizen collapses from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) at any location in Elk Grove Village, they would have better chance of survival if the PulsePoint smartphone app system were in place.

Communities that have embraced the PulsePoint Smartphone technology have shown that local government leaders understand the importance of community involvement in the overall Emergency Medical System.

On February 20, 2014, Suffolk County New York became the first municipality on the East Coast to implement the PulsePoint Smartphone App system — skipping over the Midwest. The new service, funded through federal grants, is the first municipal phone application on the East Coast that empowers CPR-trained residents to provide life-saving assistance to those in cardiac arrest.

“Suffolk County will continue to utilize the latest technological advances to provide life-saving assistance to our residents,” said County Executive Bellone. “With hundreds of residents and emergency management personnel signed up in the first 24-hours, I ask any and all CPR-trained residents to download the application, sign-up for the service and join those who are already users of this life saving service.”

“Hundreds of residents have downloaded the application in the first 24 hours,” said Joel Vetter, Coordinator of Suffolk County’s Fire Rescue Emergency Services (FRES). “We expect tens of thousands to sign-up in the next 30 days which represents an immediate impact on response times to victims of cardiac arrest.”

See also …
Journal & Topics Newspapers As Police Dispatching Goes Silent To Public, Local Officials Cite Officer Safety

PulsePoint At a Glance — pulsepoint.org/at-a-glance


PulsePoint Responder Heather Roms in her own words.

Stay informed with news from The Cardinal’s Emergencies Behind the Scenes Facebook page — Facebook.com/CardinalEmergencies. Includes links to favorite public safety and emergency rescuers and product manufacturers and safety companies that have facebook pages. Submit your pictures or just stay up-to-date on with fire, rescue, EMS and police photo galleries. Please add your public safety photo to the wall album — go direct to the Arlington Cardinal Emergencies Behind the Scenes photos. For a list of all of The Cardinal Facebook fan pages, go to Arlingtoncardinal.com/about/facebook …

Search Amazon …

Search for products sold on Amazon:

Arlingtoncardinal.com is an Amazon Associate website, which means that a small percentage of your purchases gets paid to Arlingtoncardinal.com at no extra cost to you. When you use the search boxes above, any Amazon banner ad, or any product associated with an Amazon banner on this website, you help pay expenses related to maintaining Arlingtoncardinal.com and creating new services and ideas for a resourceful website. See more info at Arlingtoncardinal.com/AdDisclosure