Fire Chief Richard Price was sitting with a couple of his coworkers in a San Ramon restaurant about a year ago when they heard a fire engine nearby.
That was no big deal, since Price hears them all the time, but he idly wondered where the truck was headed. To his surprise, the truck pulled up right next to where he was eating.
Someone had gone into cardiac arrest. While Price gets paged if there's a fire, he had received no notification of this, even though he had an defibrillator in his truck parked outside.
That got him thinking: A brain can survive only about 10 minutes after a heart is stopped, and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District averages about seven minutes to arrive on scene.
"It was hard to think that there was someone in need right next door to us," Price recalled.
Price said only 8 percent of people with a heart attack survive without immediate attention. With CPR and quick use of an Automated Electronic Defibrillator (AED), those survival rates go up dramatically, to about 80 percent.
Price said while he has 48 trained people in San Ramon, he estimates there may be 15,000 people in the fire protection district who have CPR training, and his dispatchers can talk a novice through the basics as well. And while many businesses have an AED, people often don't know where they are.
A year and a lot of technical work led to this morning's announcement –- the unveiling of an iPhone application that can send people with training and the desire to a heart attack victim.
Using GPS tracking in a phone, people who sign on to be alerted can be sent to a victim and even pointed to the nearest AED.
The app has been in testing over the last six months. This morning, Price announced that it will be released internationally, with the help of Dave Duffield, founder of Workday and PeopleSoft; Jack Parrow, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC); and Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media.
Duffield will provide technical support so developers can move the app to other platforms, like the Blackberry and the Android, while O'Reilly will push the idea to other cities and ultimately, the public. Parrow will promote it to other chiefs across the country and the world.
The software will be in the public domain -- meaning free -- and with technical support from Duffield's company and the backing of O'Reilly and Parrow, Price thinks the app could help save thousands of lives a year.
Bringing the new app online worldwide will take some work. Parrow, for example, pointed out that some fire departments don't have the software needed to send out the location automatically. Price and his team located all the AEDs in San Ramon, and that effort would have to be duplicated by other fire departments that hope to use the app.
But with the backing of the IAFC and Duffield, O'Reilly said he hopes many departments will be using the app in the next year.
Price said signing up for the app will allow anyone the potential of becoming a hero, and a public service announcement asking people to sign up will air in theaters as soon as Friday.
He quoted President Barrack Obama's speech at a memorial service in Tucson.
"Referring to the bystanders that cam to aid of those injured, President Obama stated 'Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned,'" Price said, adding, "I couldn't agree more. There is a hero in all of us."