French app alerts nearby volunteer first aiders in health emergencies

Anyone can download the ‘Staying alive’ app and get alerts to give medical support to people experiencing cardiac arrest in the vital minutes before firefighters arrive 

16 August 2021
Person giving CPR to a man. French app alerts nearby volunteer first aiders in health emergencies

Trained first aiders could be asked to give CPR Pic: Platoo Fotography / Shutterstock

By Joanna York

The fire service has an app for volunteers to get alerts about nearby emergencies so they can provide medical help in the minutes before firefighters arrive.

The ‘Staying alive’ app aims to create a network of medical volunteers throughout France who can give instant assistance with cardiac arrests.

People who download the app must enable geolocalisation on their phone to share their location so as to receive alerts about cardiac arrests happening minutes away.

“If you are a trained first aider you could be asked to provide CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation],” said Gilles Hamelin, nurse with the Calvados fire service. “If you are not trained, the app would instruct you to find the nearest defibrillator.”

CPR involves chest compression, sometimes combined with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Every day in France around 130 people suffer cardiac arrests, but only around 10% survive. Getting medical care as soon as possible is crucial –  with every minute that passes the victim’s chances of survival go down by 10%.

Mr Hamelin told France Bleu that any assistance was helpful, even if the first aid that volunteers could give was not perfect. “It is better to give a bad cardiac massage than nothing at all. It still raises the chances of survival,” he said. 

App doubles survival rates in Paris

The app was first developed by the Paris fire service and has since helped to double survival rates in the capital. Since the beginning of this year, volunteers in 60 other departments in France have been able to sign up.

These include Evann Reinard who helped to save the life of an 81-year-old woman in Bernerie-en-Retz, Loire-Atlantique.

Mr Reinard was rehearsing with his music group on August 8, 2021, when he got an alert on the app. He told France Bleu: “The app asked if I was available and I ticked yes. Within a second the fire service called to let me know the location.”

With the incident happening less than a kilometre away, he was able to arrive within two minutes and start providing first aid until firefighters arrived.

In Alpes-Maritimes, another first aider Elisabeth, who did not give her surname, also helped save the life of an 88-year-old man who had fallen and was having a cardiac arrest 90m from where she lived. 

“I arrived before the fire fighters and immediately started CPR,” she said. “I’m really proud of myself for having done something like that.”

Volunteers are not obliged to assist with emergencies if they are alerted but are not available, and are not intended to replace the emergency services. 

Calvados fire service manager Yannick Gaudin said: “I reassure you, the firefighters will always be there. But volunteers can contribute first aid while waiting for them to arrive.”

The app is free to download on Android phones and iPhones.

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