One evening last fall in Heiskell, Tennessee, Michael Robinson was battling a house fire when he saw a fellow firefighter struggling to pick himself up off the ground. The man, who was wearing 70 pounds of gear, was delirious from heat and overexertion. Robinson rushed to his side, removed him from the area, and cooled him down as best he could with wet towels. Very slowly, the firefighter's core temperature returned to normal, and eventually he recovered. But, Robinson says, the outcome could have been much worse.
Heat stress increases firefighters' risk of sudden cardiac arrest, which accounts for about half of all line-of-duty deaths. Well-funded fire departments use misting fans and cooling vests to prevent crew members from overheating. But the Heiskell Fire Department, like many others, can't afford a paid crew (71 percent of all firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers). Its tight budget leaves little room for anything beyond wet towels.
After the incident, Robinson resolved to find a better way to cool down on the job. Misting fans help, but besides their high cost, they require an external power source, take up space on the truck, and need a lot of setup time. Robinson thought of a simple solution. Why not turn the discharge caps that cover the hose ports that are standard on all fire trucks into water misters? A typical truck has six to eight ports that connect to an onboard water tank, one or two of which usually sit idle during a fire.
A few weeks later, Robinson went to a friend's fabrication shop to build a prototype, which he named HeatSeeker. He machined six holes in a brass discharge cap and screwed in six standard mister nozzles from Home Depot. Back at the station, he screwed the device onto one of the trucks, turned on the water, and watched a cloud of mist large enough to envelop two firefighters waft from the nozzles. The fog can cool the surrounding air by 30 degrees, and the misting nozzles use just two gallons of water an hour. Robinson's invention worked so well that his captain asked him to make them for the 15 other trucks in the fleet.
Robinson has since built more than 50 HeatSeekers for other fire departments. He's even adapted a cap for fire hydrants to cool children down during the summer and one for garden hoses to cool people in outdoor spaces such as concert venues. Anywhere heat can kill, he says, his invention can save lives.
Inventor: Michael Robinson
Cost to develop: $50
Distance to Market: short ● ● ● ● ● long
HOW IT WORKS
Six small mister nozzles screwed into a 2.5-inch-diameter stainless-steel discharge cap spray water from a fire truck's water tank.
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In the intrest of full disclosure, I work with the inventor so I have every reason to be biased. That aside however, I've used the Heatseeker and personally benefitted from it's use.
Michael Robinson took an obvious problem and found a simple solution that consistantly works. It is easy to install, use, and maintain. While that sounds like a small issue I can tell you that solutions to problems in the fire service are not always so effective.
This device is truly a benefit to the fire service but Michael invissions it's application as being even more far reaching than that. I for one am glad to have it available to me and my crew.
Lieutenant Eric Knoefel
Rural Metro Fire Department
no offense but the Navy has been using this kind of mister system for 40 or 50 years they also have a pole mister that attaches to a smaller hose that can be used on the firefighters while they are in fighting the fire. the pole allows the 1 or 2 men controlling the mister to be 6 feet behind the lead fire fighters.
Actually, this seems quite different from the devices that you are speaking about. I used them in the Navy. They were called applicators. Their purpose was to be put through the door of a ship and create a water curtain prior to FF's entering to extinguish the fire. They kept the fire off of the FF's by utilizing a fog pattern rather than a mist. Mr. Robinson's device looks and sounds more like a device to cool the FF's after fighting fire. Not a protection device but more of a recovery device. It seems to utilize a true mist rather than a fog pattern. Those in the firefighting community will be more apt to know the difference than lay persons. Once again, no offense intended. Just an attempt to clear the waters a little. Thanks for weighing in!
Now <b>that</b> is something which is seriously needed by every rural fire department here in the Southwest!
Lieutenant Knoefel, has Mr. Robinson thought of licensing these to other fire departments?
This seems like a cool, practical idea! Yes, after seeing it, it does beg the feeling, "D’OH!", this should of been installed long ago.
I am glad it finally arrived for those great firefighters!
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
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Their website address is www.firegroundrehab.com
I first would like to thank Popular Science Magazine,Staff and Nicole Dyer for this wonderful recognition,award and article. Something very special is happening! We are not only raising firefighter awareness but also community awareness aswell. I am getting hundreds of emails and purchases, not only from fire departments across the country but from the communities we protect wanting to help our brothers and sisters on the front lines! This is so amazing that a few firefighter's can make a big statement about a very big problem we face every day on the firegrounds regarding heat issues! HeatSeeker rehab units will help many people worldwide, fire departments, training centers, School and sports fields, law enforcement, military, personal, and even pets! We are working very hard to make a much needed change for the better everywhere heat is an issue!
"Preventing heat releated injury is much more sensible than treating them"
Thank you again for believing in us and our product!
Be safe on the fire grounds!
Michael Robinson Sr.
HeatSeeker Technology & Design, LLC
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Toll Free: 1.855.474.3473
Congrats Mike this sounds fantastic, with all the fire fighters that are injured and or lost during the heat of battle, this hopefully will catch on and be used globally. I hope you have all the resources that you need to keep pushing this product, not just for the money but to save your brothers. GREAT JOB KEEP UP THE HARD WORK ITS STARTING TO PAY OFF. your friend AB
As a volunteer firefighter this looks terrific. I also work for new product development company so I really appreciate the EUREKA! moments that spawn these ideas.
One concern I have is the quality of water that is sometimes present in rural FF operations. Not sure if I want that water (now highly aerolosized too!)being directed into my face, eyes, nose, mouth etc.
Keep improvising! Keep improving.