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Quick Thinking 6-Year-Old Hero Karl Burnstad Saves Mother’s Life

April 14, 2020
Karl Burnstad RapidSOS Blog Hero

Back row, left to right: Dispatcher Nylah Holt, Chief Deputy Connor Ehr, Communications Center Supervisor Dezi Lockard. Front row, left to right: Keith Viveiros of RapidSOS, SRO Jim Nelson, Karl Burnstad, Undersheriff Robbie Patterson. At the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state.

Last November, Tracy Burnstad, a Columbia County resident, fell unconscious while at home with her four young children. Her 6-year-old son, Karl, acted quickly and dialed 9-1-1 to get help while keeping his three younger siblings calm.

Tracy lives with a medical condition that can cause her to lose consciousness. If and when this happens, the longer she stays unresponsive, the lower her chances are of surviving.

When Karl dialed 9-1-1 and told the call taker that his mother had been sleeping longer than normal and wouldn’t wake up, dispatchers Nylah Holt and Cindy House realized the urgency of the situation – every second counts in an emergency, especially in Tracy’s case. Seeing that the call came in through an Android device, the dispatchers used RapidSOS Portal to access Karl’s device location. Knowing this information allowed responders to dispatch an ambulance faster to the exact address of Karl’s home. Tracy was then safely transported to the Dayton General Hospital where she was revived from a life-threatening diabetic emergency.

Karl Burnstad with his three siblings.
(Photo via Tracy Burnstad)

RapidSOS Portal is a free web browser solution that delivers caller device location and additional life-saving data to authorized Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs). In 2018, Google launched Android Emergency Location Service (ELS) in the U.S. in partnership with RapidSOS. Android ELS allows Android devices to send faster, more accurate 9-1-1 caller location to ECCs nationwide. During an emergency, the caller may not be able to verbally relay their location for a variety of reasons. ECCs with access to RapidSOS can overcome this obstacle and offer a data-driven emergency response with increased efficacy.

This March, members of Karl’s family, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, and RapidSOS held an awards ceremony for Karl and dispatchers Nylah and Cindy. Undersheriff Robbie Patterson presented Karl with the “Life Saving Award,” one of the highest civilian awards offered by the center which has only been presented twice in the past 39 years. RapidSOS representative Keith Viveiros also presented Karl and the dispatchers with the “RapidSOS Lifesaver Certificate” and customized challenge coins. In the 9-1-1 community, challenge coins are only awarded in recognition of special heroic achievements.

Keith Viverios, RapidSOS Business Development Manager, presents Karl Burnstad with a custom challenge coin on behalf of the RapidSOS team. (Photo via Beka Compton)

“Karl is a brave, poised, and well-mannered young man,” said Keith. “We are all very proud of him.”

Communications Center Supervisor Dezi Lockard also commended Karl for his bravery: “I know our questions were really scary but you did a really good job saving your mom. We are really proud of you and we thank you very much.” She continued, “I also want to thank Nylah and Cindy for being excellent employees and for their quick thinking, work ethic, and doing what they need to do to save Tracy. It can be really hard to sit there for 12 hours and not know what to expect on the other end of that phone.”

RapidSOS Public Safety Regional Business Development Manager, Keith Viverios and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Dispatcher, Nylah Holt, holding her RapidSOS Life Saver Certificate.

Once again, a huge congratulations to our heroes Karl, Nylah and Cindy. Without Karl’s quick thinking and without Nylah and Cindy’s flexibility of leveraging NG911 technology, the outcome could have been very different.

RapidSOS and Google’s partnership has also assisted other ECCs in saving lives. Last year, 22-year-old Jeremy Schmeltzer called 9-1-1 after experiencing an allergic reaction that led to a severe asthma attack, restricting his ability to breathe and speak. Through RapidSOS, Prince William County Public Safety Communications was able to access Jeremy’s Android ELS data to pinpoint his location and dispatch help in time to save his life. We are glad that callers like Tracy, Jeremy and their families are well today and humbled to have supported these agencies in their emergency response.

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