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On-duty or off, Olathe firefighters able to save lives

Posted at 1:27 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:49:22-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Across the country, 350,000 people suffer a heart attack every year, yet only a small number of those people survive. 

"I flatlined. I died right there on the spot," said Rob Shipley, a heart attack survivor. 

At 40 years old, Rob Shipley went into cardiac arrest. 

"Shortness of breath and my vision looked like there was a white haze and so, I just knew something wasn't quite right," said Shipley. 

It happened five years ago while Shipley was outside playing basketball with his son. On his way inside to take a breather, he passed out on the front porch. 

"As I laid there telling my wife that I didn't need any assistance, that I would be fine, the fire department rolls up and they assess the situation and they knew that I was in cardiac arrest," said Shipley. 

In 2017, 64 percent of heart attacks in Olathe, Kansas, happened in someone's home. 

"Our firefighters said we could do better," said Chief Jeff Degraffenreid, Olathe Fire Department. 

Teaming up with the PulsePoint Foundation, Olathe firefighters on duty and off can now help save even more lives. 

"On any given day, two-thirds of our firefighters are off duty and this really is a force multiplier," said Degraffenreid. 

Olathe firefighters will be using the PulsePoint app from now on. When someone calls 911, it will route to the app, alerting trained responders when someone nearby goes into sudden cardiac arrest. Something that could have helped Shipley even sooner. 

"We're the first in the country to deploy this app in a non-beta test," said Degraffenreid. 

Now, Olathe firefighters will be Verified Responders, meaning they can enter a private location like someone's home to perform CPR. Oftentimes, before the fire truck gets there. 

"Seconds, it's about a minute that could truly save someone's life," said Shipley. 

Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri Fire Departments also dispatch medical services through the PulsePoint app. 

Anyone with a CPR certification can become a Verified Responder on the app, which will alert you if you are within a quarter-mile walking distance of someone who's in trouble.