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THE DAY I ALMOST LOST ONE OF MY CREW
This is my story and the war I’m fighting!
My name is Michael Robinson Sr. I have been a firefighter for over 24 years. I am 54 years old and still a front line firefighter. I married my high school sweetheart and we have three beautiful boys that were all firefighters at one time. My oldest is a carrier firefighter with 14 years in. My first 12 years in the fire service I was a volunteer, I know first-hand about funding for volunteer departments. I could not tell you how many times we had to put our own money in for fuel to run calls because we had no money in the bank and unfortunately only about 7% of the community donated. I remember many times having to drink from my attack line because we had no cold drinks let alone anything for cooling. Budgets are costing lives not only with training but with tools and equipment.
I am going to tell you a story that changed not only my life but my way of thinking regarding safety and how important it is! Our safety is number one and we “must” not forget that ever. If we don’t protect ourselves, what will happen when we are not here to help the ones who need us? In Sept of 2011, I was fighting a house fire mutual aid with a volunteer department, when we arrived, we had a double wide trailer 50% involved. It also started a brush fire behind the building, about one acre with heavy timber. We had all hands working with minable manpower. I was inside fighting fire when my low air alarm went off and as I exited the structure I noticed a firefighter on the ground in full gear. I rushed to help him as he was trying to get up. Myself and another firefighter helped him away from the fire and out to the street. I started to remove his mask and noticed that he was very flushed and hot. We removed his gear and started cooling him off. We used wet towels and gave him a “warm” bottle of water, which is all we had!! I knew we had to cool him down fast!! He recovered that day but it could have turned out much differently!
There is a 100% survival rate if cool water immersing is started within 15 minutes of any heat issue!! That day changed my life forever!! The next day I knew I had to do something, so I started researching firefighter rehab. After 20 years in the fire service, I never knew how important rehab was and how many of my brothers and sisters had paid the ultimate price for this heat issue!!! This still happens today in 2016 because of funding and training, but I will personally do something to help and try to make a change for the better on the fire grounds if I have to do it one truck at a time! After hours of researching rehab, I went to my truck and found a way to reduce heat stress. I removed a 2.5″ cap that is used to keep debris out of the pumps and drilled it and added 6 misting nozzles to make an affordable and immediate cooling station to help reduce heat stress and cool down our line firefighters. I strongly believe that heat stress is a key factor to cardiac our number one killer. If I can save one life with my idea it can and will make the fire ground a safer place for all of us!! The first day of testing our new cap, I asked my captain and training officer to be present. The cap is already on the truck with no set up and still works to keep out debris. I started the truck and engaged the pump. I opened the right side 2.5″ discharge and a 5’x4′ mist cloud appeared and after the first 5 minutes of testing, they asked me to make one for every truck in our fleet! Today I have my rehab caps at fire departments in almost every state in the country and four countries overseas. I also have refineries such as DuPont Chemical and Shell Oil Company in Qatar purchasing our products.
This cap provides a cooling mist that works great. Some departments have costly misting fans that take up too much room on a fire truck and needs a lot of time to set up. It also needs power and water which most departments cannot afford. A rehab truck can be used but that could take 45 minutes or more to get to the scene before it is set up. This does not meet the immediate needs for the first in crews. We could have 4 or 5 attack teams in and out by that time! My units are more effective and are ready for action. All you have to do is charge the discharge to begin cooling. Our units use around three gallons of water an hour and are designed to stay on for the entire scene. You could be on a hot interstate with a pin for hours with no rehab or a brush fire on a mountain and our units can be attached to any hand line. These units are so important and they need to be on all apparatus.
Awareness and prevention is the key to reducing LODDS. “Preventing heat related injuries is much more sensible than treating them”. These units will promote on the job safety, allowing our brothers and sisters to return to their stations, communities and most importantly their families! I named this cap The HeatSeeker. I have won many awards including Popular Science Magazine which named my idea as one of 2012s top 10 inventions and in 2013 named top ten inventors between Time Magazines invention awards and Popular Science Magazines 6th annual invention awards and Knoxville Scores client of the year and award of excellence. When the Popular Science issue came out, I sold many units and I did something so special that people in the communities purchased these units to donate to their local fire departments! Not only have I raised firefighter awareness, but also community awareness about a problem we face every day. I have donated many units to departments and I wish I could give one to every department but I can’t afford that. I am working very hard to help many firefighters and make this a mandatory tool for every fire truck.
I am now dedicating my life to make a change for the better. I am starting a second campaign focusing on sports fields as well. Over 8000 children go to hospitals every day from sports related injuries! These numbers are unacceptable!! We now have our rehab stations at high schools and we also have stations at the K-9 training centres for law enforcement. The clock is ticking and every day that goes by another child is dying on sports fields and another firefighter on the fire ground!! I am making history with my voice. I know this is already happening because they are writing about me and I have also been contacted by (IFFF) International Fallen Firefighter Foundation. They are writing a book called American Firefighter. Please feel free to contact me any time. You can also google Michael Robinson HeatSeeker.