Saving a life: There’s an app for that

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A new Red Cross First Aid app gives step-by-step instructions on how to give CPR. The Red Cross recently released several life-saving apps that can help in medical emergencies. (Maddi Dayton)
A new Red Cross first aid app gives step-by-step instructions on how to give CPR as well as respond in other emergency situations. The Red Cross recently released several life-saving apps that can be helpful in medical emergencies. (Maddi Dayton)

Mckay Britsch was enjoying the hot tub at the Isles with a friend when he heard someone yelling, “My friend is dead, somebody help.” Britsch ran over to watch two kids pull their friend out of the water. He had been unconscious and under the water for more than a minute.

“I ran over there … and tried to think of people nearby that knew CPR,” said Britsch, a senior in business management. “(No one was around, so) I started giving CPR. I haven’t had CPR training since Boy Scouts First Aid Merit Badge when I was 13. I felt some promptings on what to do. Checked for pulse. Cleared airway. Turned head to side. I did CPR probably for another minute with compressions.”

Three minutes into receiving CPR, the young man came to. He was clinically dead, but thanks to Britsch’s quick thinking, he fully recovered. “I felt really calm the whole time,” Britsch said.

Stories like Britsch’s are inspirational but, unfortunately, uncommon. A recent study by the American Heart Association found that 70 percent of Americans feel helpless during an emergency situation because they either do not know how to administer CPR or they are not confident in their training.

To help in this and other situations, the Red Cross has recently released 12 apps, with the total count of downloads being more than 5 million. A little investigation brought to light that these apps are all helpful, free and worth downloading. Below is a summary of each app.

First Aid app

From burns to hypothermia, this app covers it all. It offers reading materials and interactive quizzes, but its real power comes from its ability to direct emergency situations. On its website, the Red Cross describes this app as being “a potentially lifesaving resource in an emergency situation.” The app gives a step-by-step guide on what to do if someone is unconscious, having a stroke or a heart attack, etc. There is even a “call 911” button included that calls EMS.

A more recent addition to the app walkthroughs CPR. This includes step-by-step instructions on how to perform CPR, including a timer to set the correct pace. Many people wouldn’t think to use an app when they come across an injured or unconscious person, but the Red Cross said it wants this app to be on every person’s mind and phone when such a situation arises.

Blood Donor app

The newest app in the Red Cross arsenal, the Blood Donor app, is also powerful. “Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood, and the Blood Donor app is a new way to help meet that constant need,” said Shaun Gilmore, president of Red Cross biomedical services, according to a recent press release.

The app is geared toward donors and puts “the power to save lives in the palm of your hand,” said Kimberly Houk, spokeswoman for the Red Cross, in a KSL interview. Besides reminding donors when they’re eligible again to donate, the app also allows users to schedule donations and even receive rewards and discounts for donating.

The app will track the total impact of the donations over a lifetime once a profile is set up.

Other features of the app include reading materials for first-time donors, a donation center locator, stories from both donors and recipients alike and the ability to connect with other donors.

In Utah, the Red Cross collects 115,000 pints of blood annually. Houk said the Red Cross collects and distributes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.

Other apps

The Red Cross also has apps for almost every disaster situation. The list encompasses floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfire, hurricane and a shelter app. Each of these apps warns the user when a certain disaster is impending or likely, as well as best methods of preparation. Many of the apps include sections detailing how to strengthen one’s home, or places to go or avoid in certain disasters. The shelter app gives a frequently updated list on nearby places one’s family can go.

“The application uses data about open shelters from the American Red Cross National Shelter System (NSS),” the Red Cross states on its website. “The NSS contains information about 60,000 potential disaster facilities and is used to track and report on shelter information during disasters.”

Information on the shelters, such as population, is updated every 30 minutes. The different locations can be seen on a map.

The Red Cross also has apps on pet care, swimming and an app for “Team Red Cross.” These, and all the other apps, can be found at redcross.org/prepare/mobile-apps.


Legal concerns

In “The Incredibles,” Mr. Incredible was sued for injuries sustained by the people he saved. Although this was humorous in the movie, helping someone in emergency situations can have serious legal repercussions.

If something coes wrong during CPR and the rescuer is not certified, he or she can be prosecuted. The Red Cross still recommends rescuers get certified, even if the app is used.

The Good Samaritan Act offers some protection to people responding in emergency situations. Its purpose is to minimize any hesitation to help for fear of litigation. The specifics of the act vary by state. In Utah, the law reads as follows:

“A person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of, or during an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith, is not liable for any civil damages or penalties as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering the emergency care, unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the emergency. … ‘Emergency care’ includes actual assistance or advice offered to avoid, mitigate, or attempt to mitigate the effects of an emergency.”

Although this may sound like it covers someone whether or not they’re certified, officials always recommend being certified. However, if someone nearby collapses, don’t worry about being certified to offer a helping hand.

Having some experience with CPR may help save a life, just like it did for Britsch.

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