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Off-Duty Firefighters Step Up to Save Lives

Sep 6, 2017

Spokane Valley, Wash – Spokane County is the third of four sites in the United States selected for a pilot program to utilize 100 off-duty professional firefighters in response to cardiac arrest calls in public and private settings.

The PulsePoint Verified Responder Pilot Program was launched today, September 6, in Spokane through a partnership of the PulsePoint Foundation, Spokane Valley Fire Department, Spokane Fire Department, International Association of Firefighters Locals 29, 876 and 3701, and automated external defibrillator (AED) manufacturer Philips. The first two pilot sites for the Verified Responder program were implemented earlier this year in Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (Oregon) and the City of Sioux Falls (South Dakota). A fourth site in Madison (WI) is set to come online in the coming weeks.

More than 350,000 Americans each year have an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) where the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating; nearly 90 Pulsepoint Verified Responder Kick Off Eventpercent are fatal. If treated early with CPR and in some cases defibrillation, the chances of survival can double or even triple.

In February 2014, PulsePoint was launched in the Spokane region to improve cardiac arrest survival rates by notifying CPR-trained citizen volunteers when someone is experiencing a cardiac emergency in a nearby public location. PulsePoint is a smart phone app designed to support public safety agencies in improving cardiac arrest survival rates. The app is now in more than 2500 communities in 35 states with more than 1,000,000 users.

“Since we launched PulsePoint here locally, we’ve grown to more than 22,000 users and hundreds of ‘CPR-needed’ activations with citizen responders,” explained Bryan Collins, Spokane Valley Fire Department Chief. “With Verified Responder, we now have the opportunity to send off-duty professional firefighters into a home or private location in response to a cardiac emergency, which will dramatically broaden our impact to save lives.”

The Verified Responder Pilot Program utilizes the PulsePoint app. In addition, Philips is providing an AED to every participating firefighter so that if they respond, they can employ the same technology that is used by emergency medical responders and physicians to restart a heart that has stopped beating. Participating professional firefighters are certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics who receive background checks as part of employment.

The effort will gather important data from the Spokane area pilot program and combine it with existing technology and clinical insights to inform future lifesaving strategies and products. During the pilot, King County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Seattle will be assisting with programmatic evaluation for potential expansion to additional communities. The pilot program runs through December 2018.

“We were proud to help introduce PulsePoint to the Spokane region three years ago,” said Brian Schaeffer, Spokane Fire Department Chief, “and we are honored to be the third site in the country selected for the Verified Responder program. We know that nearly 74 percent of cardiac incidents in Spokane County occur in a private home or location. Our off-duty first responders are dedicated to improving survival rates in our community when sudden cardiac arrest strikes in a private or public Pulsepoint Verified Responder Eventlocation.”

About the PulsePoint Foundation PulsePoint is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through the use of location-aware mobile devices, PulsePoint is building applications that work with local public safety agencies to improve communications with citizens, empowering them to help reduce the millions of annual deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. Deployment of the PulsePoint app can significantly strengthen the “chain of survival” by improving bystander response to cardiac arrest victims and increasing the chance that lifesaving steps will be taken prior to the arrival of emergency medical services (EMS). Learn more at The free app is available for download on iTunes and Google Play.

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Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”