East TN firefighter's invention helps on-the-job safety

10:49 PM, Apr 24, 2012   |    comments
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  • Firefighter Michael Robinson displays his HeatSeeker invention on a Rural Metro truck
  • The rehab mist cap fits onto any water discharge pipe on the fire truck, fire hose, fire hydrant or portable units
  • The HeatSeeker cools off firefighters, who wear heavy protective gear into a fire

An East Tennessee firefighter has designed a new device to help his colleagues stay safe on the job. Now, his invention is grabbing the attention of fire departments across the country.

"We're so hot, we just pretty much cook inside," said Rural Metro reserve firefighter Michael Robinson Sr. about the heavy protective gear firefighters must wear. "When we come out of a fire environment, our number one priority is to cool off."

While fighting a house fire and brush fire in Heiskell last fall, one of Robinson's firefighter colleagues collapsed from heat exhaustion.

He recovered, and the incident inspired Robinson to begin researching rehab techniques.

"I never really knew how important rehab really was until I started researching, and how many firefighters had paid the ultimate price for this heat issue."

With his research, he created a device called the "HeatSeeker," a rehab mist cap that fits onto any water discharge pipe on a fire truck, hose, hydrant, or portable unit.

Robinson compares the mist to the type seen in the produce section of a grocery store. It can lower the surrounding air temperature and cool firefighters' body temperatures.

"We need to cool our core temperatures down in order for us to go back in the fire environment and perform our duties to the best of our abilities," he said.

Now, his invention is getting national attention. Two different industry magazines have published information about the HeatSeeker, and the device will also be featured in Popular Science magazine's June issue as one of 2012's best inventions.

Since Robinson patented his invention in October 2011, he has sold nearly 50 mist caps to fire departments from Alaska to New Mexico. He has donated caps to Rural/Metro Fire Department, Knoxville Fire Department, Karns Volunteer Fire Department, Andersonville Volunteer Fire Department and even New York City Fire Department.

A portion of every Heatseeker unit goes to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, breast cancer research, First Descents and the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund.

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