This App Can Get First Responders To Cardiac Arrests Faster Than An Ambulance

“His two young children ... might have been orphaned had we not been there.”

When someone suffers cardiac arrest, every second matters. EMTs respond as fast as possible, but sometimes they're not fast enough. That's where a new app called Good SAM comes in.


"For every minute you don't have defibrillation or CPR, your chances of survival fall by 10 percent," Dr. Mark Wilson, Good SAM's cofounder and a doctor with London's Air Ambulance service, told BBC News.

"You're probably never more than a couple hundred meters from an off-duty doctor, nurse, paramedic, policeman, fireman, someone who is trained in CPR, but it's getting those people who might just be in the coffee shop next door to come to where the actual incident is."

According to its website, Good SAM (which stands for Smartphone Activated Medics) is an app that "intends to alert those with medical training to nearby emergencies so that potentially life-saving interventions can be given before the arrival of emergency services."

It draws upon "a community of Good Samaritans, happy to assist if they are the closest person to an emergency … [who] can maintain an airway, help stop bleeding, and if necessary help perform lifesaving cardiopulmonary resuscitation."

The app — already in use in areas of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand — monitors calls to the ambulance service and flags potential cardiac crises. "If you say a certain series of words — which includes things like 'not conscious,' 'not breathing,' things that are highly likely to be a cardiac arrest — then it automatically triggers the system." Ali Ghorbangholi, a software engineer and Good SAM's other co-founder, tells the BBC. "Once it can locate them, it will send them a push notification asking them if they can attend to help the patient."

CBS News spoke with Dr. Susan Hendrickson, an American doctor living in London and using the app there. "Usually all that's needed, where the app would come in, would be five minutes of CPR before the ambulance arrives," she said.

Even if someone isn't trained in first aid, that person can still help out in a medical emergency by calling for help with the Good SAM Alerter app. Additionally, Good SAM relies on the public's help to catalog the locations of automated defibrillators; 30,000 AEDs had already been mapped worldwide as of November.

BBC News interviewed a paramedic named Rachel, one of the 10,000 Good SAM volunteers in the United Kingdom. Rachel who was first on the scene recently when a stranger collapsed several streets away. She delivered CPR to the man and hooked him up to a defibrillator, and soon he was revived. She had gotten to him four minutes before the ambulance.

"It's just an incredible feeling," she said. "He just literally suddenly went, 'I can see you.' I'll never forget it. Never forget that moment at all"

She continued: "It makes you feel really good. You've made a difference to someone's life. It's really weird to think that he's around now because of me and because of my friend. He was telling us about his two young children. They might have been orphaned had we not been there."

Site photo via Oskar Krawczyk on Unsplash

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