Firefighter's gadget aims at keeping cool

Mist nozzle attaches to any fire service apparatus with water and pump, helps Tenn. crews avoid heat exhaustion

By Carly Harrington
The Knoxville News-Sentinel

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Michael Richardson had been battling a house and brush fire in Heiskell last September when he came across a fellow firefighter who had collapsed from heat exhaustion.

Water was splashed on the collapsed firefighter's head and a wet towel put around his neck, but Robinson knew that a better solution was needed to keep firefighters cool.

"Those were the only things we had to cool him down. He's fine, but it could have turned out differently," said Robinson, a reserve firefighter with Rural/ Metro Fire Department.

Enter the patent-pending HeatSeeker Rehab Mist Cap, a stainless-steel misting nozzle that attaches to any fire service apparatus with water and a pump. "It doesn't look like a whole lot but it can make a really big difference," said Robinson, who created the first prototype two weeks after the Heiskell fire using materials purchased from a local hardware store.

The result, he said, is similar to the mist at the produce section of a grocery store.

Other alternatives, such as cooling and misting fans or chairs, are cost prohibitive for many fire stations and require a lot of set up. But Robinson said the HeatSeeker is a simple and affordable device that can lower a person's body temperature by as much as 30 degrees. It also conserves water, with a discharge rate of up to 6 gallons per hour.

"It's already on the truck when we arrive. There's no set up, and it doesn't affect the water supply dedicated to fight the fire. We can leave it on the whole time without hurting our efforts," he said.

Rural/Metro currently has four misting caps, but Fire Chief Jerry Harnish said he would like to get more.

"The dangers of heatrelated health problems have been known for a while, but what you do about it has been impractical," Harnish said. " We're proud of (Richardson) and pleased he's getting a response from other departments."

Other fire departments and training centers have expressed interest. Richardson's latest sale was to a fire department in New Mexico. And he is currently negotiating with Kocheck, a manufacturer and distributor of fire service products, to distribute his product worldwide.

BT Kelly, a pump operator for Rural/Metro, said he wished there had been something like it when he started in 1960s. "When you get the call, the first thing you think is, 'It's going to be hot,' " Kelly said.

Robinson declared his No. 1 mission is life safety.

"All of my products will be geared toward that," he said.

Robinson envisions his product being invaluable to school athletes, law enforcement, construction workers and the military. " The sky's the limit with this product," Robinson said.

Copyright 2012 Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
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