In one Colorado community, a smartphone app might save a life

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PulsePoint is an app that was developed by a fire chief in Northern California after one night when he was eating dinner and heard sirens nearby.

The fire chief learned later that a next-door neighbor was in cardiac arrest and had he known, the fire chief could have used the portable defibrillator in his car.

Arvada is currently the only community in Colorado using PulsePoint and about 350 people signed up to receive the alerts after PulsePoint launched there last summer.

The city's fire department administers the app and Arvada Fire Department spokesperson Scott Pribble explains that for the user, the app is fairly simple.

"[Imagine] You're shopping at Old Town Arvada, or you're at church, and somebody collapses and somebody else calls 911," Pribble says. “If you're within walking distance, you'll receive a text message on your phone."

That text message shows the victim's location and the location of the nearest publicly available defibrillator on a map.

For privacy reasons, the app only activates if the victim is in a public place and users aren't asked to go into anyone's home.

It cost the city of Arvada about $5,000 to deploy PulsePoint but the product typically costs about $10,000.

Pribble says the app has been activated twice in the six months Arvada has been using the service.

In both cases, Pribble says CPR was not necessary or even possible because of the condition of the patients.

"They had died much earlier and if you don't do CPR in the first 10 minutes, it's not effective," Pribble says.

Pribble expects the crowdsourcing app to grow in effectiveness as more communities -- and more users -- sign on.

Other fire departments are watching to see how well PulsePoint works in Arvada before they move adopt the service.

According to Pribble, Poudre Fire Authority in Fort Collins and Eagle County are among Colorado communities that may adopt the system.

"We know that eventually someone's life will be saved," Pribble says.