In early 2010, Fire Chief Richard Price was sitting with a couple of his coworkers in a San Ramon restaurant when they heard a fire engine nearby.
That was no big deal. 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 a defibrillator in his truck.
That got him thinking: A brain can survive only about 10 minutes after a heart stops, and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District averages about seven minutes to arrive on scene.
It took about a year, but in January 2011 the SRVFPD released an app designed to create "citizen heroes" to offer CPR, and, if possible, to use an Automated Electronic Defibrillator (AED).
Only about 8 percent of people with a heart attack survive without immediate attention. With CPR and quick use of an AED, the survival rate goes up dramatically, to about 80 percent.
The app, originally for iPhones only, caught on quickly. Now, about 100 cities across the country have it in use. Philadelphia is gearing up to bring it online, and it's crossed international borders to Canada.
"We have a three-year clinical trial going in the city of Toronto," Price said, adding that the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada -- the equivalent of the American Heart Association -- has funded the study.
The app is working, too. Price confirmed "right around 500" messages requesting Good Samaritans to help with a potential victim of sudden cardiac arrest.
"Occasionally we'll get one, sometimes we'll get as many as 20, but I'd say on average it's three or four" showing up at a scene, Price said. The clinical trial in Toronto will help PulsePoint determine how many respond as a result of messages sent out by the app.
Price said the bystander rate for people who administer CPR is about 20 percent. Now about 40% are doing CPR when a rescue crew arrives on scene. Toronto will send out an anonymous survey to those who got the original (also anonymous) message, asking how they were notified, if they responded, and if they used an AED.
"For example, we had an incident at Peet's in downtown Danville," Price said recently. "In that particular case, we had CPR responders, people out front directing rescue workers in, others to switch out doing CPR, people clapping to 100 times a minute. What we don't know is if the people in Peet's would have responded anyway. We'd like to know -- when 10 people are activated, do we get two or eight?"
He said it's difficult to determine how many people's lives have been saved because of the app.
"You'd have to track people all the way through the hospital," he said.
The application has received several international awards: the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association Wireless Samaritan Award, a Computerworld Laureate Award for Innovation, an American Heart Association Life Saver Heart Partner Award, and was a nominee for a Webby award for the Best Use of GPS or Location Technology.
The Public Service Announcement designed to promote awareness and adoption of the application also received two Telly Awards.
Beyond that, it's catapulted Price into the role of national speaker. He's been to the White House "Safety Datapalooza," to promote the app, and Price has won a number of awards himself.
He said PulsePoint has allowed him to merge his love of technology and the desire to help others.
"I love the mix of the two," Price said, adding that he hopes his legacy will be to make a difference in cardiac arrest survival rates.
"The app is a way to impact a lot more people around the country and maybe the world," he said. "I'm very inspired about the idea that we can lower the amount of death through sudden cardiac arrest -- 1,000 lives a day -- that's a lot. I think the app is going to make quite a big difference. I'm very inspired by that."
* Richard Price began his career when he was 17, as a part-time firefighter in Hayward.
* He joined the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District in 2006 as the Assistant Fire Chief of Operations and was appointed Fire Chief in 2008.
* He was the 2012 "Heart of Gold" honoree as a person who has made significant contribution to the fight against heart disease and improved the safety of the Bay Area.
* He was described as "visionary" by Dave Duffield, CEO and co-founder of Workday.
* He may be linked to PulsePoint forever, but his main passion is his wife Lisa and their 10-year-old daughter Halle.
* The Prices recently spent Thanksgiving in New York City, where they watched the Macy's parade and visited the Statue of Liberty and 911 memorials.
* Price's goal is to give Halle context for what she's learning in school. They've been to the White House, to the steps of the Supreme Court, and Arlington National Cemetery. They've gone zip-lining as well.
* Price's take on child rearing: "We're trying to raise a secure, confident little girl. I'm a big fan of experience and education. If you can have an education and have the experiences that match, it really magnifies the opportunity to learn."