An Eau Claire, Wisconsin firefighter is continuing development on his device saying it can save the lives of disoriented firefighters battling zero visibility.
Jeff Dykes is a 20-year, veteran firefighter and the creator of Northern Star — a small device placed inside the mask. Through its small lighting scheme, it illuminates much like a compass, giving first responders north, south, east and west.
Dykes tells FOX 6 News that firefighters need more than their senses to reach safety.
“When we get into these environments, firefighters are using their innate sense to try and find their way out. Essentially, we’re guessing. We usually follow a hose line or a wall, but unfortunately, too many times, the guys are 15 feet from the front door and they’re going the wrong way,” Dykes said.
The inventor thought to himself, “Why do we not have a single light that illuminates when we face north?” Dykes said.
The fire-resistant, eight-directional electronic compass does just that — it simply provides first responders a vector toward their desired direction.
“Sort of like the north star, baby Jesus, three wise men concept. That’s where it all came out of for me,” Dykes tells FOX 6 News. “It not only saves the firefighter’s life, but allows us to act more efficiently inside the fire and allows us to saves the lives of who were sworn to protect,” he continued.
FOX 6 News reports Dykes developed the product two years ago. Since then, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign, won the 2014 Idea Challenge, was named a semifinalist for a powerful Answers Award and was awarded a grant from UW-Madison to continue Northern Star’s development. He’s also in the running for the Wisconsin Governors Small Business Plan Contest.
“I think they had several hundred applicants, and I’m happy to announce we’re one of the Diligent Dozens, so we’re down to 12 applicants,” Dykes tells FOX 6 News.
Dykes tells FOX 6 News his main motivation is getting Northern Star inside the facemask of every firefighter.
“The U.S. Fire Service experiences on average 100 Line of Duty deaths annually with thousands of others experiencing close calls and near misses,” Dykes says on his website. “NIOSH reports disorientation as one of a firefighter’s most serious hazards while conducting aggressive interior firefighting operations. My Northern Star was designed to tackle the problem of disorientation, thus making the fire service safer by providing a level of safety that was previously unattainable.”
“This is something that we need,” Dykes tells FOX 6 News.
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