Save Lives with First Voice ResQR!!

Imagine you're on the perfect family vacation. The sky is clear, the sun is hot, and there's just that right touch of cool ocean breeze. The sound of the waves has lulled you into a peaceful drowse, while your family frolics in the surf somewhere down the beach. Suddenly someone screams, and people are running and shouting. You rouse from your half-slumber with the sinking realization that the commotion is in the general direction of your wife and kids. You confusedly start walking towards them, then running when your eyes confirm undoubtedly that something is indeed very wrong! You rush up to find that one of your children is laying inert on the sand, with your wife crying and screaming next to him. Worse yet, nobody in the gathering crowd seems to know what to do. You drop to your son's side struggling to remember CPR training you had back in high-school, but your mind is frozen on the image of your son's non-breathing chest, and the seconds are ticking by. Someone in the crowd finally has enough sense to run for help, but you doubt that your son can wait that long. You suddenly remember that you have your WM phone tucked in a side pocket of your shorts along with a brief recollection of your wife scolding you for bringing it along on the trip. You vaguely remember buying and installing an application for your phone called First Voice ResQR--something about first-aid voice commands--and as you whip out your Touch, it occurs to you that it might just help you to save your son's life...

OK, so I waxed a little dramatic and maybe weird (Extra, Extra...Son Saved by a PDA!!). You have to admit, it made you think, though? Our lives take on such a mundane routine that we often come totally apart in a crisis. Medical decisions requiring first-aid are time critical and improper actions can further injure or kill the victim. Even people with first-aid training can panic or become confused. That's where your Windows Mobile PDA/phone can come in very useful, and seriously could mean the difference between life or death. Think of it as your constant knowledgeable compananion (not hard for most geeks), one that has a very large capacity for storing and retrieving information quickly. Why not task it to provide this critical information and assistance?

The application I'm reviewing, First Voice, is only one example of the many ways you can use your handheld to aid in emergency situations. For instance, you could keep a list or database of emergency actions and first-aid steps using a number of available methods (database, list, etc.). You could make sure emergency 911 is on speed-dial and voice command shortcuts. These will help, certainly, but the key to properly executing first-aid when really under the gun lies in your ability to recall the information quickly and concisely. Most importantly you need to make the right decisions on the course of treatment. A database or list can't really do that for you. Only a program tailored to helping you accurately navigate first-aid decision points can, and that is exactly what First Voice does.

The install is the ugly side of First Voice, if there is one. I hate desktop installs, as you may know (if you ever read my reviews, not that you should...just saying). The download is big (125MB zipped, 65MB installed), and of course the application should be installed to a storage card. So you wait and wait while Active Sync moves it to your device, and then your device moves it to the storage card after you select the storage card install option. It took me about 30 minutes to install it. It is both voice and text oriented, requiring hundreds of pre-recorded instructional .mp3 sound files, which helps explain the application's large size. The vendor responded that they can't compress the quality too much, less there be a degradation in the audible instructions. They do offer the app pre-installed on SD and CF cards for a little extra, and are experimenting with a slimmer web-based version. If you have a large capacity card, you can easily squeeze this one in, but it is a problem for low-end devices without much expansion. Considering what First Voice does, there might not be much that can be done about the size issue.

Using First Voice:

There is no on-device help, which puzzled me at first. After installing a new application, I usually consult the help files, but then it dawned on me...This is an application that shouldn't need help. It is a form of help already. It has to be very simple, and intuitive, and so it is. The initial launch presents a dire splash message warning about the seriousness of giving first-aid (which should be heeded) and the consequences. It will shortly disappear to reveal the First Voice main interface. A matrix of numbered and color-coded tabs.

The tabs are grouped into 12 categories of possible first-aid situations. I'm guessing they are color-coded based on seriousness of injury with life-threatening being at the top of the list, but not sure. I ran through several of course, but used mainly the Bone Sprain for this review. After selecting #8 for bone sprain, a navigation and instructional menu appears (see above).


When the initial navigation screen appears, a voice starts coming from your handheld asking you the question presented at the first decision gate (see the large text box area shown above). "Is the victim conscience or breathing" is typical for many injury groups, and often the first thing you will see or hear from First Voice. There isn't much eye-pleasing or fancy about the graphics, but you wouldn't expect there should be in this type of application. The no-nonsense and functional approach is obvious. The buttons are large enough that they could be operated by finger, and the interface is spartan and uncluttered. The text area will display pertinent information about the questions/actions required for each step of the first-aid process. The voice will speak each message, and even pause for a time when instructing you to check some aspect of the victim's condition. At any time, as conditions warrant, you can go home (by pressing home) or go directly to CPR instructions (by pressing CPR). The arrow buttons along the bottom can be used to navigate back and forth through the various instructions, and Play or Stop to replay or stop the voice instruction.

Emergency Care:

First Voice is excellent at leading you through the myriad aspects of a real emergency situation, asking questions about bleeding and shock along the way (even for a sprain), and provides a symptoms list to verify conditions. I did note some small problems, where voice instructions didn't play or where it appeared that the text was too long for the display. I recommend First Voice fix any such issues, so there is no possible confusion. I also recommend that they include some basic drawings linked into the text where appropriate--I noted some instructions referred to another handbook for reference drawings.

I like the concept of First Voice, and think it is as valuable as having a first-aid or emergency road-kit in your car. Outside my minor grumble about the overlarge install, it worked quite well. Having taken a fair amount of first-aid instruction from my days in the military, it made me realize how rusty my own knowledge has become. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available through our discounted VIP site here at the magazine, but I found it at for $21.99. The vendor will ship it direct to you pre-loaded on a storage card for $49.99.

I would think most people would forget that they had this in their home or with them in an emergency. If you worked as an emergency personnel, you would be trained in these types of matters therefore you would need sophisticated instructions for more serious situations.

As Tariq indicated, most people would not be in any condition to remember to pull out something like this.

This idea is something I have considered in the past doing but never did. Being in an emergency situation is different and no amount of instructions will help you effectively unless guided by a real person. Most people will not have the time to locate the right button to press or have the patience to read details from a small screen while the situation is dire and the adrenaline is rushing through the body.

If there was a quick button you could press and an automated voice guides you step by step to properly apply CPR while sensors monitored the persons condition then this would much better. Applying CPR to an infant, child, adult or senior is different in all cases and you need to be told exactly the right methods based on the persons age and medical condition.

The program does have potentials but I feel the basic monitoring tools are missing to really make this a more effective software program.

Minimum, I would think at least sensors to detect these are critical.

1: blood pressure
2: pulse
3: temperature

In the end, the best approach is to have access to 911 and as much details about the injured person as possible like:

1: Allergies to medication
2: Medical condition
3: Prior injuries

Something a PDA cannot help you with is to be calm and to use common sense in a stressful emergency situation. Sorry to be so negative about this program but when someone talks about life and death situations, it is serious and treatment should be left to qualified professionals. . .

If anyone is in their 40 - 50's will remember a TV show called Emergnecy. This was a show about a team of paramedics that saved lives. Each time a paramedic was to touch a patient, the paramedic would call and talk to a doctor to assist them. These are trained professionals and they still reply on other professionals to assist them. Just like the TV show, I would get the help of 911 whenever possible.

It's always good to check with your local fire department for free or inexpensive FIRST AID classes. Everyone should take a class. :-)

If I was to create a First Aid program, it would be for those that had less serious injuries in the great outdoor and did not require 911.

1: How to protect a cut when you have no band aids. pee on your wound to sterilize and apply lip balm if you have it.
2: How to start a fire with twigs, a shoe lace and a small stone.

Now this maybe more practical. :-)

While I agree that this program may not be an absolutely perfect solution, I disagree with the argument that someone who installed this program would forget about it.

Sure, in an emergency you're going to be freaked out and the first thing you're going to do is probably seek help (someone near you, 911, etc.). But if I specifically installed a first aid program on my phone and then was presented with an emergency, I wouldn't forget that I had installed the program just because it was an emergency situation. Maybe I live a more sheltered life than some of the others who have commented but being under pressure doesn't make me just suddenly forget facts.

Put differently, when confronted with an emergency I believe it's safe to say that most peoples' first reaction will be "I need to find help." If there isn't any help immediately available (or if there will be a delay between when the help is summoned and when it will arrive), the next reaction would probably be "What can I do to help?" And if a person specifically installed a first aid program on their phone (or bought a first aid kit, etc.) I simply cannot believe that they would just forget about it. To believe otherwise seems to be to believe that the potential helper just runs in hysterical circles going crazy instead of trying to help, which just isn't true.

And Bob I must disagree with your assertion that "no amount of instructions will help you effectively unless guided by a real person." There are innumerable instances of people having saved lives by following instructions out of a first aid book. Indeed, first aid books would be useless if your assertion were correct.

And as far as the suggestions for an On-Star type program (or one that dials 911) and the assertion that emergency treatment should be left to qualified professionals, I agree on all counts that these things are preferable. But the very fact that an emergency exists often--by definition--means that help (whether in the form of 911 or qualified professionals) is not available. Sure, an emergency room is better than a first aid kit, but this doesn't mean that first aid kits are useless; sometimes all you have is a first aid kit.

I Think my last statement says it all.


"It's always good to check with your local fire department for free or inexpensive FIRST AID classes. Everyone should take a class".

I agree with you.

"the bone protruding through your leg"....Yikes!

Hi Nate:

The initial premise was someone providing help to someone else. One thing that was not mentioned in these cases is what happens when things go wrong or get worse?

Providing CPR incorrectly and the person dies. Does this mean the person providing the incorrect CPR ultimately responsible?

Actual training cannot replace any form of instant instruction by any means.

The example you give is certainly valid cause at the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for your own survival being in the situation alone. If the person has common sense and patience, I can see that person pulling out the PDA and referring to the program. If the owner of the PDA is injured and has someone else to assist he/she can trust, again the PDA maybe helpful for the assistant to refer to. I just find the small screen a real deterrent when shock, adrenaline and fear kicks in. A large screen with lots of images and detailed audio instructions would be helpful like on a tablet PC or laptop but a PDA I really have my doubts.

Hi Shelley:

I really appreciate you adding your comments.

I do agree with you if we were talking about an actual printed manual or a laptop that shows large diagrams and the complete instructions on one screen. You can place the book/laptop somewhere that allows you full access to both hands and the victim.

I cannot see someone being calm and patient using a PDA which requires both hands and a Smartphone that is also difficult to use with only one hand. Then having to perform CPR or tending to a serious wound would be difficult holding the PDA or phone too. PDA or Smartphones just do not have a large enough or loud enough speaker to allow you to place the unit far enough away that you can here the audio but also have room to work.

The program in general is not my main concern but more so the small device on which it is designed to work on.

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