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FIREFIGHTER REFLECTS SAFETY

     

Saturday, December 8, 2012 As a volunteer fireman in Wyoming, Ohio, Zach Green saw that increased visibility would make firefighters safer in dark, smoky conditions. As a businessman he saw opportunities to create a successful venture around selling solutions to this problem.
The result is a new company that Green founded two years ago, MN8-Foxfire, which uses photo luminescent technology to create glow-in-the-dark products that firefighters can use on their equipment to make it easily seen even in total darkness.
The luminescence is created by a pigment powder that was invented more than 15 years ago, says Green. He has worked with manufacturers to suspend the powder in silicone to increase its intensity. He created a luminescent helmet band for himself and got so much interest from fellow firefighters at the Wyoming Fire Department, where he volunteers, that he decided to make more and sell them to others.
At first, Green ran the business part-time from his garage in Wyoming while he continued with his day job as a pharmaceutical salesman. Then, in the spring of 2011, he showed a sample of his new product line – which includes helmet and equipment bands and stickers, equipment coating kits and grip wrap – at a fire instructors conference in Indianapolis. Green says he was so inundated with orders that he quit his job and started working for Foxfire full-time.
“In the first couple of hours we sold out of everything we had,” said Green of the booth he operated at the conference. “The next month we did $80,000 in sales.”
Today, more than 35,000 firefighters are using the products, including those in the Cincinnati Fire Department.
Foxfire products emit a bright yellow glow that not only makes items more visible but also lights up the immediate surrounding area. The illumination is much more visible in low light than reflective gear alone, which requires a light to be seen. It is also rechargeable from any light source and can last as long as 17 hours, Green says. Prices range from about $25 for a helmet band to $100 for a paint kit that covers several tools.
He did not offer sales figures.
“I kept hearing from people that this is going to change the way we fight fires,” said Green.
Matthew Flagler, a lieutenant with the Cincinnati Fire Department who is in charge of purchasing, says the department bought helmet bands for its crews earlier this year.
“As far as photo luminescence, this is the most effective product we’ve ever seen,” Flagler said. “It is a striking improvement.”
Green has used social media to spread the word about Foxfire, and he also employs firefighters themselves as his sales force.
“Firefighting is a fraternity,” said Green. “They take care of each other.”
He employs 70 firefighters on contract and says that could jump to more than 1,000 by the end of the year to support expansion plans.
The company’s new products will include paint to mark exits and stairwells in industrial buildings.
To ramp up production for this new push, Green has brought on investors and plans to add as many as five new staff members to the six he has now.
Within the next two years Green says his goal is to have his Foxfire paint in 1 percent of all commercial buildings in the country.
Green says the product will be available through industrial safety retailers as well as through independent distributors.
“This solution is four times less expensive than other safety solutions out there,” said Green, “and the paint is permanent. We think there is a lot of potential here.”

 


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