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Cooling vest inspired by racing technology showcased at FDIC


By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — For the past 15 years, Rich Shafer has been keeping everyone from surgeons in the operating theater to race car drivers cool and refreshed.

Now it's the turn of firefighters.

Photo Jamie ThompsonRich Shafer (right) shows the Aqua Vest Active Firefighter Rehab System at FDIC in Indianapolis, 2009.
Photo Jamie ThompsonRich Shafer (right) shows the Aqua Vest Active Firefighter Rehab System at FDIC in Indianapolis, 2009.

Shafer Enterprises showcased the latest in its line of personal cooling systems — Aqua Vest Active Firefighter Rehab System — at FDIC in Indianapolis.

The system enables rehab teams to cool up to six firefighters at any one time by pumping water from a cooler through insulated hoses to individual vests, which contain 50 feet of capillary tubing each.

Shafer, the president of the company, said while the system can be set up in minutes, it provides cooling for hours.

The system, which Shafer said took about two years to develop for firefighters, simply requires ice, water and 110 volts of electricity.

"To cool the body effectively, you must cover 35 to 40 percent of the skin's surface with temperature controlled water and that's what this vest does," Shafer said from the show floor. "It's something that works very effectively."

Shafer began working on the firefighter system after being approached by firefighters who had taken part in race meets and experienced the line of vests used by race car drivers.

"They would come up to me and ask me what I had for firefighters," Shafer said.

He then approached the fire department in Henry County, Georgia, where his company is based, and he began to learn more about the issues and needs of firefighter rehab on the fireground.

Once it was designed, the vest was tested by the Georgia Fire Academy and immediately mandated for all of its live fire training sessions.

The vest went on general sale last year, with the FDIC being the largest showcase for it since its launch.

"Everyone who has stopped by to put the vest on is impressed by it," Shafer said.

Learn more about the vest by visiting www.coolshirt.net.

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