EP 47 Rapid Shelter Solutions
We have the same mission as these first responders do, we’re here to serve and help. So, if we can do anything in that regard, you know, we can help out by actually being on the ground during disasters, we can help just being there, you know? We like to be put to work.
[TODD DEVOE] Welcome to episode 47 of EM Weekly, this is your host, Todd DeVoe with you, and we’re going to be talking about shelter. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shelter is one of the top three needs that humans have. We learned this probably back in middle school or high school. But today, we’re talking to JJ about shelter systems, and actually some more. We kind of get into some really cool conversations here, so I hope you will enjoy this.
I found JJ’s company when I was looking for a rapid shelter system for my needs. And I thought, wow, this product was really cool! So, I wanted to share it with our community. And JJ was so eager to start that I didn’t even get a good chance to do a proper introduction for him. So, the start of this podcast is going to be a little kind of prompt, but just bear with that, and I think you’ll see why, because JJ’s knowledge and excitement about shelter systems, and just really, in general, helping people in disasters, will come through.
And in our Ask Todd segment, the inbox, there was a question from Matt Karr from Ohio, and he asked, “What is the best way to break into emergency management?” Well, Matt, that’s a great question. And I think the best way is to get yourself out there and get involved. You know, join the International Association of Emergency Managers, IAEM, and get to meet people on the job. Volunteer with groups, such as the American Red Cross, or Team Rubicon, or the Salvation Army, those types of things. You can join our Facebook group, and you can ask questions there to the practitioners that are out there right now. We have some really talented members in our Facebook group.
So, that being said, for everybody, check our Facebook group, you know? We also have on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, all the social media platforms. So, if you want to follow what we’re doing, I’d love to have you guys follow us along. Also, go to our website, www.emweekly.com, and you can also subscribe to be a subscriber of EM Weekly podcast. Also, check out the website as well, and answer our poll question. We have a monthly poll question that comes up, obviously, it changes every month. And this is kind of fun, and we like to see what people’s opinions are about trends and things that are happening in emergency management. And the data is unscientific, but we’d love to see what the people of emergency management are thinking, and that’s why we ask those poll questions. It’s just something fun to do. Well, let’s see what JJ has to say about shelters.
[J.J.] Working in emergency management is kind of one of the caveats of the industry that I started in. Originally, I started working for a company called Western Shelter Systems, that makes a great shelter product that was the standard for FEMA, for search and rescue teams, and also the NDMS Health and Human Services Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, the DMATS.
[TODD DEVOE] Cool.
[J.J.] And obviously, that got to an introduction from the US Forestry, and the wildfires. And so, coming out of college, I did my first internship for that company here in Eugene, Oregon. And that’s kind of what introduced me to the whole disaster response world.
[TODD DEVOE] Cool.
[J.J.] That time, I was working with, you know, disaster and medical teams, USR teams, (inaudible), hospitals, research capacity. You know, there was the influx of the pandemic flu and the kind of isolation needs. And really, when I stepped away from that company in 2012, my goal was to start a company that was more focused towards the immediate response. The rapid deployment, the first 72 hours. And that’s kind of how we got into designing the product of the ASAP Rapid Shelter System. And coincidently, one of the industries that primarily took real interest and focus right off the bat was the emergency management side.
And so, we kind of did a change, and really, our focus on building products was really for first responders. But a lot of them are kind of with the emergency management in mind first. And we kind of hold ourselves unique to the fact that we’re one of the first companies to start our business and our response with products built and fitted, you know, thinking of emergency management deployment in mind, rather than taking a product that was already in the market and trying to make it adapt towards emergency management and the rapid response. We’re trying to be a company that started with that goal.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great, you know. I mean, some of my experience with these types of tents has been in the military. I started out in the days when we had the GP tents, you know, the big canvas tents that you had to roll up site and stuff like this? And then the DRASH tent kind of came out, and that was sort of kind of cool. And I see the evolution growing for sure, and the product that you have looks really easy to deploy.
So, tell me some of the– I won’t say the customers that are using it, but some of the deployments that your stuff has been on, and what are the challenges that have been associated with getting your stuff out to people?
[J.J.] To start with the– I’ll kind of hit on the issue of you getting the product out there. You know, grant funding isn’t what it used to be. So, that makes it pretty difficult. Or, there’s the potential saturation of the market where a lot of agencies already bought equipment, you know, starting back after 2001, after 9/11, where there was that big ramp-up of the USAID, not USAID, but US Grants, Homeland Security Grants, and so, a lot of those agencies bought what was available. So now, they’re looking at it, and they’re saying, “Ok, here’s a product that we want, but we already have, you know, shelters and basecamp equipment for deployment.”
But a lot the scenarios that a lot of the agencies are falling into is that immediate response that they need, where they don’t know if it’s going to be a small response, type 1, or type 2, or type 3 (inaudible) at the beginning. So, they just need to gather something quick. And so, we are really going out there and competing with the easy ups, you know, saying, “Ok, that’s not enough shelter. We don’t need this big shelter that takes hours to set up that you would deploy for a long-term event. We need something that’s in between those two.”
And that’s why we designed the ASAP Rapid Shelter, that was a two-person rapid setup, and we give you all the long-term needs of a longer legacy shelter, like you mentioned, with the DRASH shelters, ACTs, the Alaska Structure, Western Shelter, they’re all great brands, all great products. But when you need that fit that’s going to give you something rapid and immediate in disaster response. Something like ours that two people can arrive, you know, with the minivan or pickup truck, get their equipment down from the trailer or the truck, two people set it up.
And the reality is the response level of the emergency management agency is not like there’s this huge army to come rolling out there. You know, it’s a small amount of people. And those people have specialties and skill sets that aren’t meant for being expert (inaudible). They need to be able to get out there and set something that’s quick and easy, that can now become a focal point or a command center. It can be for search capacity; it can be for triage, you know, it’s got a limitless functionality. But that’s kind of what we are looking at there. And so, you know, I would say that that would probably make it the hardest part, is getting it because of the funding.
But the way I see the market turning is that, you know, maybe a conversation for another day, or with other industry leaders and decision-makers. But what I see now is kind of more a deconfliction of past equipment. You know? People are looking at what they bought, and things are getting old, they’ve been on the shelf for a long time, they didn’t get used; batteries are dead, trailers have flat tires, equipment is just not functioning because it’s been sitting around, waiting for that event that didn’t come around. And just the maintenance and training on that equipment is also pretty cumbersome.
So, trying to deconflict, maybe take some of that equipment, donate it to other agencies that need it, buy newer equipment, or have both types of equipment, and then allowing you to have an equipment piece that isn’t going to be very draining on your staff or your volunteer base when you go to do a training over the weekend. Spending all weekend setting up tents and tearing down on Sunday is not a very fun event once you’ve done it two or three times. And that’s not the main reason to come out there for training, there’s a lot more important aspects to training, and especially for your volunteers and your paid hourly employees, to come out there and really focus on the lifesaving factors. Not the set-up of a tent. So, that’s where we really found an opportunity for us to enter a market that, you know, it’s not necessarily an easy market to penetrate.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. You know, when I was working for a city, we had a CERT team go and help the state with the drill that they were doing. And the CERT team’s job was to set the tents up, that the state has over at the (inaudible) forces train base there in Los Alamitos. And you know, they enjoyed what they did, I guess it was a fun time for them. But at the end of the day, that’s what the state needed, it’s an army of people, literally. There was like; I think 45 to 50 people came to set tents up. And you know, because in some cases, they needed to move these things around with forklifts and things like this, just becomes cumbersome. And I couldn’t imagine taking a tractor or trailer of tents someplace where you’d have to bring a forklift as well and have everything set up in a timely manner.
I did it, like I said, in the military. But again, we literally had marines to move things around for us, right? So, that being said, these tents in the video that I saw on your website, it was very, very simple to set up, and I like the idea that, you know, with the heater in the one in the winter exercise, that you guys did in Alberta. And then also the air-conditioning. And just using the simple Honda generator that you guys use for power, makes a lot of sense. I’ve seen some really high-end, expensive, you know, $100,000 shelter things that, you know, again, takes a little bit of time to set up and whatnot. But this seems to be a little more affordable and easy to use. And that seems to be what your design was.
And again, when you guys do these exercises, how many people– you said two people. But realistically, to set up a whole camp, how many people are you talking about? Can two people do it, really? Or is that just–
[J.J.] I mean, the reality is that, you know, two can do it. You know, I recommend– when it actually comes to setting up one shelter by itself, I really wouldn’t like to see more than three people involved, just because you start to get to an element when there’s too many hands involved. And people start pulling things the wrong way, or people get too far ahead of themselves. And so, really, it’s a two, three-person, you know, makes it that much easier. Doesn’t make it a whole lot faster, but it helps. But if you set up a whole camp system, and you’ve got, you know, ten shelters that need to be set up–
You know, this summer we went down and helped with the big fire here in Oregon, and Oregon Department of Forestry needed some extra shelters for sleeping their night crews. And we came down and set up ten shelters, air conditioning, and power with four guys, and it took us about, maybe, 40 minutes.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s amazing.
[J.J.] For a 100-person sleeping camp, in 40 minutes, that’s, you know, not really heard of. Now, that’s not our main focus, setting up tents for sleeping. That’s just one of the functions that it can be used for.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] But when you look at a video there that’s great opportunity we had with some of the UN INSARAG, or the International Search and Rescue ISR teams. They’re working with Canada, in the UK, in Ireland, up in Alberta. And that group alone is one of the segments that we’ve really been able to tap into because you have agencies that are really looking at their international deployment capability. Their ability to (inaudible) package, you know? Using 463L pallets, and you know, being ready to go. Lightweight, and we’re really trying to reduce the amount of cubic volume and weight that they’re bringing with them.
And so, our shelter makes a great fit for that, especially with our accessory equipment line of deployable shelter or shower systems that go inside the shelter. You know, you can turn it into a deacon w-lane, 3-lane, or tactical deacon shower system inside the shelter. You can, you know, use it for sleeping, command center, we have a new hub system that we just launched, where it allows you to make a full complex system, where you can go into one shelter, connect it to the hub, and you can branch off to three or four other shelters in all directions, and build a system that can be, you know, 10, 15, 30 shelters connected. So, allowing you to do that bigger field hospital-type set up, or larger command operations set up. This is why we designed that system, to meet those needs, in request from our industry and our customer base.
You know, then you look at your more local agencies that are buying our equipment, and you have North Carolina Emergency Management, you know, every county in North Carolina has at least one, regardless of the size of the county. At least an ASAP shelter to be able to, you know, respond to an emergency need. And you know, region or state-wide help can assist down the road in the following hours. But everyone has the same equipment, so everyone is interoperable.
In California, we have Caltrans or California Department of Transportation. I believe they have 30 more shelters of our shelters spread across the state, with air conditioning and heating. You will see a lot of these agencies that will turn around and use this shelter for heating or cooling for rehab. EMS rehab, fire rehab. And so, at the same time, they’re using a lot of those accessories, the heaters and the air conditioning units, and they may even respond to an elderly facility, or a special needs facility, where they can actually bring heater or air conditioning to that facility if they have a power outage, or you know, we’re tackling this extreme weather, with the cold.
You know, if that building isn’t able to keep up with their demand they need for heat to keep those patients– instead of moving them, which is usually, you know, the last resort, because that transportation of those special needs people is kind of really more of a dangerous response, rather than keeping them in place and bringing the heat to them. And so, we were just talking about the different agencies, and how some of the agencies are using accessories like the heaters and the air conditioning units to deploy those, to assist special needs facilities, like elderly homes, or other types of special need facilities, where they can actually bring the heater and plug that right into the building, to be able to heat special needs victims in place, rather than moving and transporting them, which really, at the end of the day, would be more of a disaster, if they had to move those patients, because a lot of those people don’t do well– in special needs facilities, those types of patients don’t do very well when they’re transported from one location to the next.
So, being able to keep them in place, bring the heat and the air conditioning to them, or the power to that building, or even any type of government agency building, or schools, if they have a power outage or their heater goes out, instead of, you know, cancelling school or cancelling work, or making people work in the cold or in the hot, they can bring those accessory items, like air conditioning and heating. Be able to keep, you know, heat, or cool those buildings in place and be able to keep operations going.
So, finding ways to really utilize that product that they’re purchasing, bringing more justification to the grant purchase, by saying, “Hey, this is not just a shelter, that’s a heater and air conditioning for these uses.” But really, it’s more of a global purchase; you’ll be able to respond to any type of emergency response. But it also takes that agency and those personnel to be creative, and you know, think about different ways they can use their equipment. Think outside the box and alternative options rather than resorting to moving patients or canceling or closing schools or buildings down.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, that’s actually one of those things that every time that we look at doing products, for whatever they are, you know, the question always is how often are we going to use them. Even if it’s like, you know, say a new truck, or whatever. And how often are we going to utilize that vehicle and what not. So, to be able to have something that’s versatile like that, that’s multiuse, that it kind of becomes an easier cell to, number one, your leadership; and number two, to the taxpayers, if it used taxpayer funds and stuff like that.
[J.J.] There’s a lot of times where people have thought, you know, “I’d like really like to have a shelter up,” but you know, the easy up is not enough, and bringing in one of our bigger, larger, heavier shelters really isn’t an option for this timeframe, or personnel is not here to be able to do it. Or that one guy who really knows how to set up a shelter isn’t here.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] But with our equipment, the amount of time you debate whether or not to even set it up, you might as well just set it up. If it’s there, pop it up, use it; even the fact that it’s so easy to set up, it makes it– you know, on the turnaround, when you’re packing up or when you have to go back, and you have to refurb the equipment, clean it up and re-pack it for the next use, that is also not that labor some. So, when you turn back to the warehouse, it’s not that hard to get that shelter out, pop it up, clean it, dry it off, put it back away, and it’s ready to go the next time.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] A lot of people are taking that step too down the road.
[TODD DEVOE] You know, one of the things that just kind of popped on my head as far as a really good use here in California, specifically– Southern California. Is usually for the point of– the pod, the point of distribution. The point of distribution, the pods. And the idea here is, a lot of times, they’re just in parking lots, you know? And that’s the same thing with the pods, using the easy ups, what seems to be used a lot. And there’s never enough shade associated with that. And/or when it’s hot out when we’re doing them, because we normally do them around flu season, in October.
It’s not enough. Sometimes, you need to have the cooling center. So, I think that’s a really good use for that, for your products.
[J.J.] The reality is, I look at it and say, ok, well, first bonus when you set up a shelter like ours versus an easy up, or just having a shelter, period. Is that it really sets a precedent of, you know, “Here we are.” It’s our billboard; it’s our focal point. You know, when you see that tent up, you realize that’s somewhere you need to go. Versus, you know, you see a table, some chairs, and some people standing around, that’s probably where you need to go. But having that tent set up and some signage really says, “Ok, destination point.”
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] And then, you know, having that shelter, the ability to heat or cool it. The most important to me is you’re thinking about your employees, or your first responders, or your volunteers. You know? It’s a lot easier to get those people to come back and keep donating their time. Because you know, when you think about emergency management, everyone wears a lot of hats. And everyone’s really sacrificing a lot of their personal time. And when you’re looking at those aspects, and you know, how you keep those people coming back, you can, you know, make their conditions a little bit better. Just even, you know, adding air conditioning.
That really says something that one, you’re thinking of them and that the agency is there to assist; but also, it’s giving them a lot more of a better experience, so that they should return and keep volunteering their time.
[TODD DEVOE] Right, yeah. It’s amazing how just some of those small creature comforts make a difference, and one, to keep going forward. You know, air conditioning or heat in the winter, air conditioning for sure in the summer time, especially when it’s, you know, in Arizona and California, when it’s 100-and-something degrees out, hot.
[J.J.] Yeah, we started using (inaudible) blackout for our shelters, really because a lot of times, some of the agencies are using them for sleeping, for their staff that are working the night shift, so that they can sleep better during the day, just to have a black tent inside. Those are the kinds of things that we try to add as features; we’re really listening to the customer and just trying to offer the extra step of detail, that really makes it that much more comfortable.
[TODD DEVOE] How easy is it to transport these items? I was thinking more along the lines of like, say, like a Team Rubicon, American Red Cross, or something like that, that they move all over the place. Is it something that you can shove into a vehicle pretty quickly or get into an airplane without too much issue to transport?
[J.J.] Yeah, you know, that’s I’ve been going back and forth for my favorite vehicle for our demos, and when we transport around. And funny thing is, my vehicle of choice is any type of, you know, Chrysler minivan, or any type of those minivans that fall flat, because I can get two shelters in there. Pick-up trucks are great, especially if they have extended beds, so you can still close the back end. But the minivan, you know, I can put one in there and leave one of the back seats over, so I can still drive around three people. Or I can take all the seats down on the back and drive around with two people and have two shelters in there, or some accessory equipment.
When you look at some of the cargo minivans, there’s like, they’ll take two shelters, two air conditioners, two generators, or they’ll take two heaters and two generators. So, you know, when you think about that, you’re not bringing an extra trailer. Because of the size of the generators, or the shelters, and the size of the (inaudible) or the heater, you can get away with a much smaller generator, like you were mentioning with the Hondas. You know, getting away with one of those, that’s a one-person or two-person maneuverable asset, rather than something that’s dedicated to a trailer or one vehicle that needs to bring that along, gives you a lot more flexibility. And it’s something that two people can park, unload everything, and set it all up, you know, again in just minutes.
So definitely, as far as, you know, local transportation, especially in local, regional needs. And then when you look at the international, like on a 463L Pallet, if it was just our shelters, you could load up to 16 shelters on one 463L Pallet, for flyable– fly-ready. We have teams down in Colombia, in South America, working through the US Embassy, and some of the special operations military and police forces down there, they’ll actually fly it around, they can put two to four shelters inside of a black-op helicopter and transport that way into remote locations.
You know, the other types of teams that are using it for the USAID, teams from the Fairfax in Los Angeles, they’re using them, for their international deployments. And I think that was probably our first US international deployment, would have been Nepal. That was when the Fairfax took it; the search and rescue team took that out there.
So yeah, there’s multiple uses, I mean, down in Mexico, several islands, Puerto Rico, a lot of the equipment got deployed this last summer. And it seems to be, just about now, with any international disaster at a large level, whether it’s one or multiple agencies that are taking our equipment along with them. And for us, in this industry, you know, as you are probably very familiar, it’s a very small community. First responders, you know, domestically and internationally, it’s a very small community. It’s a one or two-degree separation, and word of mouth is, by far, our biggest marketing took to get our name out there and get people coming to us. We try to get to them first, but until people really say, “This person over here,” this agency or vice-versa, they said, “Hey, you need to take a look at this ASAP Rapid Shelter.”
They can see the video; they can see the live demo. A lot of times, you know, unfortunately, people see a shelter, they just think it’s a shelter. Unless they actually see it go up and see how fast it is, they don’t realize it’s something that might be applicable for them. But usually, it’s that word of mouth, that reference from another colleague in a different agency, or even within their own agency that says, “Hey, I saw this, I was deployed with it, it really is fast and easy.” That’s what gets people interested and really in the hook.
As much as we show videos and things like that, it’s hard to really sell it until it’s that reference, that word of mouth. That’s the biggest selling point.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] And you know, I was glad you came to us and asked for us to interview with you, because the opportunity for us to be able to get the word out there through someone with the experience, and the list of people that you’ve been having podcast with, it obviously shows that you know what you’re talking about. And just having this conversation with you, I enjoyed myself, so.
[TODD DEVOE] Cool. So, you stated earlier that you were supporting a fire in Oregon with your tents, and that just made me think. Do you guys have a just-in-time ordering thing? So, say, the fires in San Bernardino, for instance, and they didn’t have tents. Would they be able to order something from you quickly, or is it something that takes a while to get up and running?
[J.J.] Well, generally, we have some inventory. We try to maintain an inventory level of 10 to 20 shelters, but you know, the reality is, when you’re producing here locally, in Oregon, and the sizes of some of the orders that are coming through, there are plant projects. What allows us, when we have that disaster is, you know, we might have a current project that we’re building 10 or 20 shelters for an agency, and then we get– you know, something happens, and they need something immediately. Usually, we can call those agencies and explain what’s happening and ask for a little extension or their delivery time frame, so we can make the demand for those immediate needs and those disasters that are in front of them.
Usually, there’s always an ability to get some shelters, whether it’s a handful, one to five shelters, or ten or more. We also have a pretty large demo stock that we have access of. So, sometimes we even just let people borrow shelters in a moment’s notice and just say, “Hey, just borrow it. Pay for the transportation, and at the end of it, if you interested and you want some, there’s no expectations. But I think once you use it, you’ll probably come back.” So, we kind of just have that type of mentality where, you know, we’re just here to serve and help.
We have the same mission as these first responders do, and we’re here to serve and help. So, if we can do anything in that regard, we even helped out by actually being on the ground during disasters, and we can help just being there. You know, we like to be put to work, so. We’ve been on exercises and trainings that have turned to real events. Especially– very common in the emergency management world or some of the law enforcement world is the land search and rescue experience. Just regular SAR. You know, we’re going to training, and there’s a missing victim, and it turns from exercise training to actual deployment. You know, the shelter becomes a useful point for a warming center for the volunteers or even a cooling center. Or it turns into, you know, they use it as a center, or communications shelter. It happened several times, actually, surprisingly.
[TODD DEVOE] How much power is in one of your shelters? The answer to that question and more when we return from our break.
[TODD DEVOE] Welcome back from that break. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to our sponsors, and please check them out. And let them know that EM Weekly sent you, because, without them, we could not bring you the quality product that we bring you today.
[TODD DEVOE] How much power is in one of your shelters? Like, as far as– do you guys have things pre-plumbed or do you have to just bring extension cords? How does that work?
[J.J.] Well, we do actually offer some battery packages for an off-grid package. So, we do have a– we call it PX800 because it’s a custom kit that we put a couple of the off-the-shelf Goal Zero 400 batteries. We also have some other custom kits where we use some custom-design packages for lithium batteries.
So, it’s just a bigger battery, but it’s lithium, so it’s lighter. I think it’s in that issue of air transport so, not as many agencies are liking lithium, even though they love, and weight and they love the maintenance of it because you don’t have to charge it all the time. But the reality is it’s more expensive, and it has that one distinction, that is you can’t just put it on a plane and fly it.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] Whereas, you know, the lead-acid batteries that you would find in some of the Goal Zero batteries that we use, you can transport those around, you can take them as a carry-on luggage. They’re heavy, but you can still fly with them.
The benefit of that, though, is that, you know, the technology has come along. As much as our shelters come along, LED lighting has come along. It’s really advanced in these last 15 years since I’ve been in this industry. The price point is really reasonable now, and so, by changing our lights to an LED function, we use a simple string light with LEDs and that function one, it reduces the cubic weight and volume of the all-fluorescent tube lights, and the cost is way reduced. And the weight is reduced by 75%.
And so, when you’re looking at that now, so you can get away with a small generator or, in our situation, a small battery. The Goal Zero 400 will run one of our shelter string light systems for up to 36 hours. And that’s if you run it all day. Then you can plug a solar panel to it, and you may never need to actually plug into a generator. And you still have enough power to power laptops and cell phones. Which, in reality, at the end of the day, one of the most important things now is to have some type of battery or power to just charge cell phones. Communication has become one of the most important factors in a deployment.
[TODD DEVOE] Yes.
[J.J.] Whether it’s for the responders themselves or the victims, you know, being able to get someone to charge their cell phone could lead to someone having the ability to call for help, you know, get to a shelter. Sometimes all they need is a phone, so they can call and get a hold of their family members, so they have a place to go rather than staying in shelters.
You know, and there’s not payphones in every corner anymore, so getting someone to give you a phone is also, you know– it’s not an easy feat, either. Everyone is dealing with dead phones. Which was a very realistic scenario that happened in Puerto Rico.
[TODD DEVOE] Right. It happened in Sandy too, right? I mean, the pictures of everybody standing around a chord, trying to charge their cell phones.
[J.J.] Yeah, I can see that being a pod distribution point nowadays, in the future, when you’ve got power outages like that. You can have a location where you’re giving out water, and just having batteries and generators to charge cell phones. People can come and park and charge your cell phone for an hour, and you’re good for the next day.
[TODD DEVOE] Right, yeah. So true. That is so true. That’s probably something we should think about in our plans, of recharging centers. You know, I was thinking of when you were talking about your LEDs, I don’t know if you’re familiar with– I think it’s Big Angus, the name of the company that makes outdoor products. And they actually have a backpacking tent that has LED lights embedded inside of them, and you can flick them, turn them on when you get there since you don’t have to carry a lantern with you inside your tent. You have those lights that are inside them. So yeah, you’re right. They’re getting smaller and easier to use, and that’s really kind of cool.
[J.J.] Yeah, definitely. I mean, I just pulled them up on my website, and I see what you’re talking about. And yeah, I mean, that’s the reality. Depending on what kind of lighting you need. You know, our lighting is set up, so it’s, you know, full lighting for whether it’s a medical operation or incident command operation. But the reality is that some of our teams, they just need one little LED light, just enough to be able to see their way around the tent. And you know, one of our batteries can give enough light for 7-10 days if that’s all they’re using.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s great. That really is great. That’s just things that, like, when you start talking about things you don’t think about, right? Like, those little small, small details that you just go, “Ok, I need a shelter.” And then you go, “Ok, it’s night time, how do I walk around the shelter? Where is my flashlight? I’ve got this little flashlight.” You know? It’s small little details like that that really make a big difference.
And again, back to the idea of making it comfortable for your responders and to your volunteers that are comfortable in a time when they’re stressed out, you know? When they need a place to crash and just to relax and something like that, just those little lights and the ability to have the warmth or the air conditioning makes a huge difference. So, I do think your product is outstanding that way.
[J.J.] Part of my requirements for my R&D and sales team is, you know, we had to go to exercises and sleep in tents, and we do our own (inaudible), so we can come up with new designs and changes. And we try to do it with customers because, to me, my team has got to be willing to sleep and be comfortable in these. We think that’s what we deliver to the customer.
[TODD DEVOE] Do you have a way to make the code more comfortable?
[J.J.] You know, we entered into a partnership with Disc-O-Beds. They’ve been around for a long time, on our supplier list, they’re one of the most purchased bunk bed systems out there. And one of the things I like about their beds it’s, you know, it can be a bunk bed, or it can be an individual cod. And they have some pretty wide options, so you have a little more space to sleep on. And ultimately, what we do is we partner with them, so we could start using our own kind of mesh– nylon dipped fiberglass mesh that we actually use, that’s a little more comfortable.
What happens with that material is that when you sleep on it, it warms up and it contorts to your body shape. So, it kind of gets more comfortable as you’re sleeping in it. And then when you jump off the bed in the morning, it will return back to its normal fit, so that the next person can actually sleep in it, and they will conform to their body.
At the same time, it’s also a material that’s easier to decontaminate and wash. So, I think that’s, to me, I hear you on the comfort part. And you know, the reality is you can use cushions and things like that, and those are great, and they will make it more comfortable. But once again, by doing that, you’re kind of going against the idea which is, you’re adding more volume and bulk. So a lot of people try to stay away from cushions.
You know, small, inflatable mattresses are great too, depending on the climate. You never want to sleep on an inflatable mattress when the floor is ice cold, because that will just turn that air mattress into an ice-cold air mattress. If you don’t realize it, they’re actually losing their body heat by sleeping on an air mattress on a cold floor. As long as people are aware of their situation, and you know, not allowing that to be the case, you just need some kind of insulation between the floor and your mattress. But when you look at, you know, pack down volume, sometimes the air mattress really is one of the best options to go with.
Any type of cod or framed bed system is going to take up a lot of space, and it’s going to add weight. But if you have the ability to transport and you have the space, I definitely like the Disc-O-Beds. Whether it’s our version or just one of their Disc-O-Beds. It’s a great cod; it’s super durable, I think the ratings are at about 350 pounds per level. And you know, it’s a great price too.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s the best. I was just joking about making the cods more comfortable, because I never thought that would happen, and JJ had an answer for it. That was the greatest answer.
[J.J.] It’s one of those things, I mean, it’s one of the things in industry that– we don’t sell thousands of beds. We only sell a few hundred a year. And it just depends, either customers already have them, or they want that full-term key package. And they want the shelter, they want the air conditioner, they want the generator, they want the heater, they want the insulation linen, the lights, the wire harness, they’ll ask for communications packages, they might want this– you know, command displays, televisions set up, they want printers and a case, they want a full incident command package, they want medical supplies, medical beds, you know, for sleeping, they want the bunk beds. Sometimes we even sell sleeping bags.
You know, we don’t go out in the market trying to make those products, but if we could find a way where we could kind of alter a package or add some type of advance or improvement to it, then we’d like to do that if we can, that’s how we entered into that partnership with Disc-O-Bed. It was to be able to provide our thought on the material to be used for the bedding part. Yeah, we actually thought we found some pretty good– and it seems to be, I mean, it’s not going to be better than your home bed, that’s for sure. It’s definitely not a nice foam mattress that you’d have. But at the end of the day, if you’re working really hard and you’re ready to sleep, it’s pretty comfortable.
[TODD DEVOE] That’s true. I have crashed out many times, just basically getting my boots off and laying down and cashing out. So yeah, I completely agree with that. You know, it’s amazing that you have the full package deal, that you can expend the package or shrink the package to whatever you need, and you guys are able to really meet those needs. So, that’s really cool.
So, JJ, we’re coming to the end here. I do have a couple more questions for you. But the big one here is, if you have– what book would you get to somebody who is getting into this business or into leadership?
[J.J.] You know, I can’t say that I’m as well read as I would like to say, or some of my colleagues or friends. And when it comes to this business, I have read a lot of business books, and the surprising part is how many of them actually apply towards emergency management, just in general, to our business model as well. One of the ones I always come back to, and it’s just one of those books that I think everyone needs to read is “The Tipping Point”, by Malcolm Gladwell.
You know, it’s not directly emergency management related, but it really covers a lot of the philosophy of how (inaudible) trends change. And so, when I look at people who are trying to think differently, and think outside the box, you know, the adaptors and the introducers of products, people in the emergency management world are the ones that really change the way things have been done.
People that are going out there and saying, “Yeah, this is the way everyone has been doing it for, you know, “x” amount of years, but why aren’t we trying to do it this way?” You know? Those innovators that are in the industry that are trying to change the response, which is ultimately, what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to come in an industry that says, ok, people are using what the military has been doing for “x” amount of years. But maybe that’s not the best product or the best fit for what you’re trying to do on this local or regional response. How about you look at something like this, that’s faster? Maybe it’s not as strong, but maybe it’s going to have more utility.
And so, getting people to change their look and say, ok, we can do things differently. It’s our right to adapt and adopt new technology. I really like that book because it reaches on a level of epidemic research and social, economic and trends. So, it’s a great book, any Malcolm Gladwell books are great. I always pick up business books, you know, I mean, I think like anything– you can read “See You at the Top,” a Zig Ziglar book, or you can read, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill. You can read books that, you know, I think, as leaders, people are trying to create something as far as, you know, changing the mindset within an agency or even within an industry. I think when you read those kinds of books, it definitely brings leadership mentality.
By the end of the day, I love any type of apocalyptical book; they’re great reads. I love zombie books; I love The Walking Dead. I try to imagine what my products would be in those scenarios, and I like to think that I know where there’s a lot of great equipment cash, if I was in The Walking Dead, so I know where to pick up some good equipment.
[TODD DEVOE] It’s funny, I love those books too. For me, they’re always fun to read. There’s a couple of series I love to read, I’ve got– “299 Days” is one of them, and “Getting Home” is another series that was a fun read to do.
[J.J.] What was the last one? “Getting Home”?
[TODD DEVOE] Getting Home is the first book of the series, and there’s a whole series with them. I think it’s five or six books that are associated with it. But yeah, those are fun books to read.
[J.J.] Yeah, I think any of those books– I don’t know, for one, I think my imagination must be running. I like to read those books and think about, I don’t know, how I would respond to those scenarios.
And I think there is something there to learn for anyone in the emergency management world that is involved in that. Is reading those kinds of books, just as much as your curriculum-type books. It’s going to give you at least some ability to kind of imagine the worst-case scenario and how are you going to respond.
A lot of things that people don’t think about is, you know, whether it’s that Cascadia Falls event that could happen here, or the big event that could happen in California. You know, when you think of those types of events, that really breaks down all kind of training and exercise that anyone has really been able to put to use, because it’s such a large-scale event that, the reality is that a lot of those first responders, they’re going to be worried about their families first.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] You know? That changes everything. So, who is there to respond? And I think that in that type of scenario, you’re going to have much more involvement from a military aspect than you would from– you know, your ability is, you know, widespread as you would get from your local responders.
Now, I think they will all eventually report within however many hours, but you know, when something like that happens, your reaction, first off, is going to be your family. And that was evident after events like Katrina and things like that, where you can’t expect– you want to expect it, but you’re not going to get 100% (inaudible). That’s for sure.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah, the statistics say that we’re going to have a 40% reduction in the workforce for the first 24 hours. And you’re right. Eventually, everybody will report in. But I mean, it’s not that they don’t want to get there, but sometimes, people can’t get in. You know, the roadways are closed–
[J.J.] Yeah, road cut-offs and all kinds of things, and other elements that will keep people from being able to do that.
[TODD DEVOE] And then sometimes people, you know, in some cases, in working families, where the husband and wife are away, and the kids are stuck at home, and you can’t just abandon your six-year-old kid to go work. So, those situations associated with it as well.
[J.J.] Actually, I was doing training with Georgia Emergency Management here in the “Snowmageddon,” probably about three or four years ago. I got stuck on the freeway during that whole ice storm, when Atlanta got frozen, and everyone got stuck on the freeway.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] I remember listening to the radio, I was stuck, and hearing all the parents that were calling in the radios, and they sent some of the school buses home with kids, and some parents decided to walk, and when they got to the school, they were stuck in the school, and then to find out that their child did get home. You know, it was a communication nightmare, and you just– you know, you can’t plan every scenario. And you’re not going to have a 100% execution of doing the right thing every time, as responders and the community respond.
But the most important thing is the after-action. How do we do it better the next time?
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] It happened once, and it will probably will happen again, and let’s do it better. But, you know, planning that, thinking outside the box and thinking, “What’s the next potential disaster?”, you know? Atlanta has had quite a few things happen, you know, just recently with the airport, so it’s endless.
[TODD DEVOE] Yeah. If anybody wanted to get in touch with you, what would be the best way?
[J.J.] Probably the best way would just email, phone call, social media. You know, we’re using all those aspects. I, personally, I’m at that cut-off of generation X where I still like phone calls. I prefer phone calls over e-mails and text messages, but definitely, I prefer to pick up the phone and talk to people, and I think that the best way would be to call be at 541-337-3608, on my cell phone.
But just in case you need to get a hold of somebody, or you know, we’re traveling, you can always call at our phone line at 541-855-463-3756. This would be our toll-free number to the office where you can catch any of us here. But yeah, I think phone calls, I prefer. Just cause there’s a lot more to learn about what people are trying to achieve than just, you know, via email. You can get a lot more information from a talk versus an email or text message.
But the reality is, you know, I think a lot of the emergency management people and first responders are probably the same nature, because of the age. But with how busy everybody is, I find that a lot of people like emails too. So, for us, it’s easier for people to get a hold of us, always. Because now we know they want to talk.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[J.J.] It’s always that, “Am I bugging somebody while they’re in a meeting? Or am I calling on somebody when they’re busy?” But yeah, I think we found that social media, through Facebook and stuff, a lot of people– it surprises me how many people reach out to us through that means as well.
[TODD DEVOE] What’s your website?
[TODD DEVOE] Perfect. And again, everybody, we’ll definitely have this stuff down at the show notes for you to grab. So, if you’re driving, or you don’t have a pencil, or you’re not able to write down, you can always check it out on the website, and click on the links and we’ll get you to there.
All right, is there anything else, JJ, that you’d like to add before you go?
[J.J.] Yeah. I just want to say thank you for what you’re doing and getting the word out there about– not just products, but how people are responding. This kind of format is definitely something that will help, I think, many emergency managers, and in general, first responders across the board. You know, covering different issues that are coming up. What I found is that I strongly believe that communication is probably the most prolific concepts that people in business need to understand. It’s just, you know, how to reach out to people and get in touch, and actually have that conversation versus, you know– I always push my guys to make phone calls versus emails and text, because you don’t get all the information across through those other means.
But even when I look at communication on the aspect of emergency management, is having those agencies and hospitals talking with the emergency management offices, with the emergency medical services, with the department of transportation, and all those agencies working together. One on a city or a county level, and then state wide as well. But ultimately, is sharing that information about what products are working, but also what pitfalls they’ve come across.
When you see a community that really is functioning, you know, together, integrally, as one, it’s amazing how many times you’ll see agencies supporting each other across the road. You know, we have teams like in Charlotte, where Charlotte Fire helps Charlotte Police, and they’re helping the emergency management, and the state level is helping them. When you have that kind of combined support, it’s amazing how many people can actually borrow equipment.
You know, not everyone needs to own a big semi-trailer full of shelters. You need to have a couple of agencies with that, and the partnerships and (inaudible) that are shared, so that people have access to the equipment when they need it. Not everyone needs a 100kW generator. But you need to have access to one. So, if you have one element, and another agency has the other element that you need, going back to that, you know, borrowing-a-cup-of-sugar-from-your-neighbor mentality, and having that shared response to help each other out and share products, to me, that’s how we’re going to see agencies getting the most stretch out of their grant funding and their budgets in the coming years.
So definitely, you know, I push that, whether it’s communicating and talking about the DLX rapid shelter, I hope that’s the conversation that’s happening, and people are lending them to each other. But ultimately, you know, people realizing what each other has, so that when disaster happens, they can make use of all that equipment that’s available.
[TODD DEVOE] Awesome, JJ. Thank you for your time.
[J.J.] I appreciate it, thank you, Todd.
Our Guest, J.J. at Deployed Logix
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